Monday, August 24, 2009

Starting Small

What are you doing today to achieve the life you dream of?

No, planning, pondering, ruminating, thinking, contemplating, speculating and musing do not qualify as "doing" in this context. What are you actually, physically, doing about your dream?

Often times it can be difficult to make the transition from thinking about the life we want for ourselves and actually making it a reality. Certainly, it is easier to daydream about what a better job would be like than it is to take action (get the training necessary for a new position, put together a revised resume, set up lunch meetings with people who might be able to help) - but only the latter option will set you on the course for attaining your goals. The former will likely lead to frustration and growing dissatisfaction.

Sometimes we put off taking action for so long that it seems almost impossible to start. We begin making excuses for why we cannot take action now (I can't exercise this week because I have too much work to do! I won't start my diet until next month because I have too many parties to attend and it will ruin my efforts! I couldn't possibly start saving my money now because the new fall designs are in at Nordstrom!) and slowly we start to believe them. If we make excuses long enough, they create a mental block that can prevent us from taking action and leave us feeling like we have no control over our own destiny. Fortunately, this is not the case - we do have control.

So how can we begin to take action when simply getting out of bed in the morning can sometimes seem too daunting a task? Start small. Make a little action today, do something small that will set you in the right direction and recognize yourself for what you accomplished.

Why start small instead of embarking on a new undertaking with a big bang? Starting small gives us the benefit of being able to take action, to start doing, today. No matter the circumstances we are living in there is always a small action that can be taken to make progress towards a goal. Also, starting small is an easy way to break the cycle of excuses and self-doubt we create for ourselves. For example, if you spend 15 minutes working out this morning you realize that despite a busy work schedule you can make an investment in your health. Slowly, the excuses you once made will begin to melt away.

What are you doing today to achieve the life you dream of?

Go ahead and take a single, small action that will bring you closer to your dream. Congratulate yourself for taking that first step, and get excited to take another tomorrow. Over time your confidence will build and your small actions may grow. 15 minute jog this morning? By next week 20 minutes will be a challenge you are ready for. Edited your resume this weekend? Sending off 10 job applications by Friday is much more attainable now. Tried a new, healthy breakfast this morning you loved? Swapping your usual danish (or worse yet, coffee and a stick of gum) for more nutritious fare will come much easier now that you have a yummy alternative.

Sometimes we do not take small actions because they seem insignificant; do not be fooled. Small actions are the catalysts for big change. Need more convincing? Maybe the words of Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher and Taoist big-cheese, will speak to you:

Great trees grow from the smallest shoots;
a terraced garden, from a pile of earth,
and a journey of a thousand miles
begins by taking the initial step.

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