Have you been watching the Olympics? If so, you have probably experienced moments of inspiration. Awed by the athletes' determination and performance, you have likely had the thought that you could achieve more of your own dreams if only you were more disciplined and invested a little more effort.
If you are like most people, the thought of reaching your potential was short-lived, and you quickly returned to your bowl of ice cream. Yet deep down, there lingers an uncomfortable feeling that you could do so much more with your life. You might never become an Olympic athlete, but you could certainly be in better shape, better manage your money and significantly advance your business and career. All it would take is a little more discipline and a lot more follow-through.
It is normal to experience these feelings of possibility. Everyone dreams, plans and visualizes great things for their life. Yet very few people transform these intangible thoughts into the tangible, physical actions required to achieve their dreams. That includes aspiring athletes. For every person who earns the right to participate in the Games, there are tens of thousands of youngsters dreaming of Olympic glory. Many are talented but very few have the dedication and focus to achieve their potential in sports or any other area of their life.
What about you? If you want your dreams to come true, you must roll up your sleeves and take action in the real world.
How can you do it? Following through does not come naturally to most people. However there are numerous well-known methods that can support you to take action. For example, hiring a coach or following a structured program like ProCoach definitely helps. So does having a quality team of people supporting you. Making a public commitment or asking someone to hold you accountable will increase the chances you will keep your word. And promising yourself a reward for meeting your objectives can sometimes be enough to coax you into action.
After coaching small business owners and self-employed people for 13 years, I have also found several other techniques that work very effectively.
1. Take the next small step
When my alarm went off this morning, it was dark outside and raining heavily. The bed was warm and cozy, and I had no appointments to keep. All I had was my commitment to myself that I would get to my desk early to work on my newsletter. Unfortunately that was not enough to get me up. I lay there, half asleep, composing my newsletter and thinking about the day and week ahead. I noticed that the further down the road my mind wandered, the less motivated I was to get out of bed. Instead of focusing on action, I was living in my imagination.
I wanted to will myself into action. My solution? I decided to just get as far as the shower. I knew taking that small first step would get me started and my momentum would carry me from there.
You can use the same principle when you want to take action. If you are thinking about going to the gym, start by putting on your workout gear and then see what happens. Do you want to grow your business, yet find it difficult to make phone calls? Simply pull out your phone list and pick up the phone. Dial the first number without thinking ahead. Focusing on one tiny step at a time makes it much easier to get into action. I am convinced that the best way to achieve your dreams is not to think big. It is to repeatedly think small and follow-through.
2. Create an environment that supports your objectives
When you are attempting to follow through with a difficult task, it helps tremendously to be surrounded by an environment that supports your success. For example, if you want to lose weight, get rid of all of the unhealthy food in your house. It is easier to stay the course when you have to go to the store to buy a snack than it is when there is chocolate calling to you from the cupboard. If you want to be productive in your work, clear your desk of distractions, do not open your e-mail, and turn off the ringer on your phone. If you want to reduce credit card debt, leave your cards at home or cut them up. I urge you to be strategic about creating surroundings that support your objectives. Otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure.
3. Utilize the power of leverage
In order to get yourself into action, the internal pressure you feel to do something must exceed the resistance you are experiencing. You can use leverage to increase the pressure on yourself. For example, last fall I decided to reduce the amount of sugar I was eating, so I made a commitment not to eat any desserts or sugary snacks for six weeks. I knew this would be a tough one for me, so I used two forms of leverage. First, I promised my wife that if I fell off the wagon I would do some of the household chores she typically does. Not a pleasant idea! Second, I increased the significance of the commitment in my own mind by positioning it as a test of my personal resolve rather than a health goal. I told myself that if I failed, it would be a clear sign that my addiction to sugar was stronger than my willpower. Thanks to these leverage strategies, I was able to keep my commitment with flying colors.
Here is the bottom line. It is easy to get inspired by events like the Olympics. However, inspiration is not enough. The only way you will achieve any meaningful results in your business or personal life is to take action. It is in the transition between the intangible world of ideas and the physical world of action that most people fail. You can live in dreams, or you can take action and actually accomplish your dreams. The choice is yours.
Yours in action,
Andrew Barber-Starkey, Master Certified Coach.
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Andrew Barber-Starkey is a Master Certified Coach residing in Vancouver, Canada. His coaching program, the ProCoach Success System, is designed for entrepreneurs, small-business owners, self-employed and commissioned sales people who want to double their income while simultaneously doubling their time off within 3 years.
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