Make Action A Habit

19 November 2010, by Ariadne Cedilla

It’s strange to hear someone preach about “making action a habit.” In this global and economic climate, fear and unrest is a great motivator in getting people to get off their heinies and work.

Everybody’s hustling, pounding the streets, burning both ends of the candle just to make ends meet. And now you read, “Make action a habit?”

This isn’t a call to busywork. Mindless action to look like you’re accomplishing something makes you someone who is going through the motions of being alive.

Busywork doesn’t engage you, or ask you to be more of yourself, or ask you to bring more of yourself into this world. The action that we’re looking for when we speak of making IT a habit is purposeful action.

Purpose-full. Geddit?

Making action a habit will demand the following things from you

  • The willingness to feel unsure and bad about yourself – and going on anyway.
  • The willingness to welcome feeling like an idiot in public and in private
  • The willingness to let go of what you “know” for what you find out, to release idle dreams in the hope of molding your own reality in truth, not just in theory.
  • The sheer stubbornness to master your feeling and keep focus on the bottom line of each day, each week, each month.


You find your priorities when you settle on things that you deem important. When you see something as important, how do you treat it? Your actions show just how much value you ascribe to what you say matters to you.

If you say you’re working hard for your family, but you’re working an 80-hour workweek, that kind of time allotment doesn’t leave much for your nearest and dearest. Your actions betray your words. Purposeful actions don’t. These are the actions that support what you choose as important.

  • Purposeful actions require you to be aware: of the best use of your time, of how your emotions can carry you off-course, or dull your perception.
  • Purposeful actions demand your attention – am I doing this to look important, or to impress other people with how industrious I am, or to say I did MY share of the work, you can’t say that I haven’t been busy, shut UP.
  • Purposeful actions ask you to live your time to the point.

 

How do you make (purposeful) action a good habit?
Look at the areas of your life you want to change. Focus on the top 1-2. Don’t be greedy, you’ll still encounter enough problems on the way, you don’t need to solve everything in one fell swoop. Baby steps, baby steps. Once you’ve gotten your balance back you can go on to numbers 3 and onward.

Assess what you need to adjust, replace or revise in these areas: Focus on the top 1-2 consistent actions in each one that will make the most difference in terms of reducing stress and issues in these problem areas.

You start doing the actions required – it may be uncomfortable, you would probably complain and say it feels icky, but, like combating first-day-of-school-jitters, you keep doing it until you’re used to it.

If making this change is really what you want, then honor that desire to make your life better by acting like it.

After a decent amount of time – 4 to 6 weeks, you sit down and take the time to maximize what you found out – you assess the results to see if these new habits serve you, if they’re truly making a difference, and if you can sustain them.

The assessment forces you to body-check the activities you choose and see if they’re actually working: Is what you’re doing resulting in concrete gains and visible differences? Is your stress down? Is the situation improved in any measurable way?

Word check: concrete gains, visible differences, measurable.

As Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” You can’t ride herd on what isn’t there, so reviewing your actions demand that you transition out of busywork and into purposeful action, as much of it as you can. You begin to climb out of a mindless rut and start on the road that finally gets to somewhere worth going. This does two things:

  • One, you get rid of the things that stress you out the most.

Aside from leveling your top two stressors, you gain confidence to deal with the next two, and the next two after those, and so on.

  • Two, you get to do the things that matter to you the most.

By clearing out your old stressors, you get to see a more accurate picture of your life, one not clouded by all the emotional haze and dronework that you’ve been doing for so long. You get to see yourself and your life, the sum of your choices. And then you choose to make it different.

The lure of busywork is that it keeps you from thinking even as it makes you feel you’re doing something important. A lot of time can be lost to that, and to the unaddressed stress of not living your life to the point. It’s easy to stand at the water-cooler and complain about all you still have to do, damn man, I was up until two in the morning and I still haven’t finished my report! It’s bizarre to see who’s competing for the Most Stressed Award. You can’t win for losing.

 

Now, back to the beginning. Remember what will be asked of you?

  • The willingness to feel unsure and bad about yourself – and going on anyway.

Doing something new isn’t scary unless it matters to you. That’s a telling sign right there. You’ll question yourself: Is this really what I want? Why am I doing this? What am I doing here?

Answering the questions that pop up, especially when you’re wide awake at hell o’clock in the morning, gives you a stark look at who you are and who your actions are making you out to be.

  • The willingness to welcome feeling like an idiot in public and in private.

“Everybody else has it easier, look at them.” Now really? Don’t compare your insides to someone elses’ outsides. What you see isn’t what people are internally. Think about how you keep a brave face on when you’re mentally shrieking in rage, plotting to go nuclear on someone, or overwhelmed and depressed. You think you’re the only one who does it?

Just as you can fool people with the face you present to them, you can also be fooled. Purposeful action demands that you try to be better that who you were before, not better (or worse) than anyone else. And if that leaves you feeling like a clumsy, fumbling n00bie, so be it. You’re not all that, and everyone else is busy adjusting their own mask to pay any real attention to you anyway.

 

  • The willingness to let go of what you “know” for what you find out, to release idle dreams in the hope of molding your own reality in truth, not just in theory.

We’re all messed-up kids playing grown-up. We hold favored, well-worn fantasies close like a favored binkie. But we are not meant to stay children. Past a certain point, spoon-feeding is not okay, nor is mindless acceptance of whatever’s handed to you. Blaming “Them” for THIS makes you powerless in your own eyes, by your own mindless reactions.

You want to make something of your life, YOU do it. You DO it, and you make it YOUR life, one you chose and bled and sweated and cried for. You get to be the creator of your own best dreams, not just an onlooker in your own life. You realize the power to choose, and to act.

 

  • The sheer stubbornness to master your feeling and keep focus on the bottom line of each day, each week, each month.

Just as we are not meant to stay children, we are meant to realize our accountability to ourselves as adults.

Past blame, past “They OWE me (I’m not growing up ’til I get what I want)!”, past childhood wounds, we can stand up to ourselves and control the internal voices that can overwhelm us and drive us off-course.

The best, grown-up way to live a good life is to build good habits, to take action, and be in charge of taking the steps to make that life, every day, into the weeks and months and years that compose it.

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