There’s no avoiding it.
Any plan or intention is only as good as our ability and willingness to implement it.
There’s often a disconnect between what we plan and what we do. Some people run ahead and do things with very little planning. Others plan and plan but don’t always act on their plans.
If you’ve done all the exercises well, then you should have broken down many of the barriers to purposeful action. The exercises are intensely personal, and when you identify things like purpose and values that are very relevant to you, they can be a huge source of inspiration and energy.
Facing seemingly overwhelming challenges
It’s important to start from a position of optimism. It helps from a psychological point of view but also a practical one. You will achieve more, and people will listen to you more, if you have a can-do approach.
Focusing on what we CAN do is infinitely more productive than focusing on what we can’t do.
A second approach is to find like-minded people and organisations who are active – or who could be active – in your area of concern. Mastermind groups can be extremely effective in developing thinking, and making things happen.
How to overcome some common barriers to making things happen
The barriers cluster into the Four Ps.
Procrastination is often hidden under busy-ness.
The worst procrastinators are often the busiest people. Being busy within their comfort zones of answering emails, sorting the small stuff, they can never find time for the big, important stuff.
Here are two effective remedies for procrastination.
A positive failure mindset. Getting out of your comfort zone to do the big stuff to make a difference will inevitably bring some failures (see courage, earlier). Accept the failures as proof you are making progress. See them as a badge of courage. Keep failing positively until you start to succeed.
The other remedy for procrastination is to make things smaller – one thing a day to get you closer to your goal. Even two minutes. A coach called Cheryl Miller calls this ‘microbursts’ – very short bursts of energy aimed at a particular problem. Take bite sized chunks – at speed.
At the heart of this, there’s a worry about being criticised. The lesson here is that unless you’re Mozart, there’s no such thing as perfect. After you get to 98% you’re going backwards. You’re probably filling up your mind with irrelevant detail that has no place in the outside world. So let go a little and see what happens.
It’s related to confidence. We don’t like making mistakes or being ridiculed. And that’s quite understandable. But experience – including mistakes – is a great teacher. Most successful people have a string of mistakes behind them. Remember your strengths – tap into your passion – take your courage in both hands – and try.
Or rather, not prioritising. Having a purpose, being clear about your values – both help you to figure out what’s important. But it also means dropping what’s trivial. It’s always worth asking when you’re doing something – is this a good use of my time right now?
will be required. You will have setbacks. Anticipate them. Realise that it’s not about you. Remember that all experience is useful.
People take time to come around to ideas. They say people need to see three advertisments before they understand a new grocery product. More challenging ideas take rather longer.
Stress becomes positive
Stress. Be aware that going through all these exercises is a way of finding a life with much less stress. Even if we are trying do achieve something which is very difficult.
If you are aligned with your purpose and your values then you will be more energetic, more alert, more at peace with yourself. More ‘in the zone’ as athletes say. Positive stress gives energy. Negative stress arises because we follow paths which are at odds with our values and talents.
If you’re working with seriously ill or damaged people, you may well find your work distressing. You would not be fully human if you didn’t. But distress is different from stress. Exhausting as it is, it will be ultimately positive. You won’t be ripping yourself apart if that is what you have chosen in the light of your purpose and values.
Other ways to make things happen
You can involve other people. One way of achieving results through others is learning to influence them. To do this, you must step into their shoes, to show that you understand their issues, and appeal to their values and finer feelings. Being passionate is a great persuader.
Learning to delegate is important – if you have people to delegate to.
Other people can help in another way. If you make a commitment publicly, they can act as your conscience. It’s hard to lose weight, but it’s much easier if you tell people you’re dieting, and ask for their encouragement.
Refer back to your purpose and values and commitments regularly. They may change over time, or you may redefine or refine what’s important to you. But keep them alive. Post them somewhere where you can see them.
Finally, remember the words of David Schwartz in The Magic of Thinking Big:
If the spirit doesn’t move you, sit down and move your spirit.
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