Entire books have been written on the importance of understanding your why (and I recommend that one!). I’m not going to rehash all of them, but I will agree with the fact your why, aka being On Purpose, is a key element of the ACTION plan. It’s such an important element, that I’ve already talked about it here on this blog. 

Until you have a compelling why driving you to achieve an Aspiration, you’re unlikely to take meaningful steps to get there. This is the reason so many new year’s resolutions fail. Without a why, we lose interest. We can’t stick with the change. The why is our motivation to be Consistent and keep taking positive action. 

Even if you and I have the same Aspiration, it’s highly unlikely that we would share the same why. When I’m taking positive action On Purpose, it reflects my unique experiences and interests; yours will too. My why would likely not motivate you because our experiences are different.

Let’s take exercise as an example. The reason why I exercise is because I want to walk unassisted when I’m in my 90’s, just like my great uncle. For another person I know, their why is because many of their relatives died at younger ages and they exercise to hopefully not have the same happen. For another, it’s that they want to continue to fit into their current clothes so they don’t have to buy new ones. There are endless why’s for something as simple as choosing to exercise. The key is to find the why that is true for you.

Another way to think about your why if you’re struggling is to determine what you stand for or against. This is often a meaningful reason that leads into a compelling why. My family has been significantly impacted by cancer, so I support causes and engage in activities around finding a cure. I also have a love of the natural world and the environment, so again this helps me direct my energy toward volunteer efforts

In a world where we have unlimited choice and access to information, being On Purpose also helps to narrow your focus and stay Targeted. You can easily filter out those positive actions that are good, but not necessarily aligned either with your Identity or your why and what you stand for (On Purpose).

#PositiveAction Struggling with your resolutions? It’s time to revisit your why and get clear about how you can approach them On Purpose this time!

On Purpose is the fifth element of ACTION, part of a series focused on positive action. If you’re new here, welcome! You may want to start at the very beginning with positive action

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay, edited by me, which is maybe why the sizing seems off!

When it comes to leading an authentic life, one of the big challenges comes in around clarity. Many of us, haven’t spent enough time figuring out what matters most to us. Or maybe, like me, you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this very topic, but the answers that you’ve surfaced don’t ring true. There is the strange sense of misalignment between what we think and what we do, but we don’t have clarity on the connection points between those two things. 

At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a particularly vile and destructive word, commonly used in the English language. SHOULD.

Should is the enemy of your Identity. Should is a barrier to being your authentic self.

Should makes us feel guilt, shame, and a sense of obligation to do or be something that we don’t want. And should is very sneaky – we often don’t notice we’re using it. Should disguises what we enjoy and what’s worse, gives us a false sense of being noble when we do something we think we should

Imagine, if you will, a hypothetical example. It’s late on a Thursday night and my child tells me at bedtime that they need a snack for school tomorrow. I sigh and say, “I should make cupcakes.” I have no earthly desire to make cupcakes. I have no interest. I have a sense of obligation to provide a snack. Making the cupcakes will not result in anything other than misery for me, even if it provides some amount of enjoyment for others. I only thought I SHOULD take on this activity because it’s what a “good mom” would do. It’s the “right thing” to do. Stale pretzels (the only thing left in the pantry) will be judged by the other kids/teachers/parents. 

And this is how should gets us to do things. It makes me worry about things outside of my control and guilts me into doing stuff I don’t really care about. Watch out for should as you work to create actions in alignment with your Identity. Your goal is to find the person you are, not the person you feel like you should be.

There are other factors beyond should that can also create challenges in the Identity piece of the ACTION plan. Here’s another example. I have a tendency to be a people-pleaser. For me, enduring my own discomfort is far more palatable to me than seeing others unhappy. Besides, I got used to being worried and uncomfortable, so it didn’t seem like a big ask to continue to feel that way. And so began one of the ways that my authentic self began to disappear. I was allowing others to choose what made them happy and going along with it, rather than choosing what would make me happy. Eventually, it got to the point where I didn’t even know or recognize things I would enjoy anymore. 

This one small personality quirk (people-pleasing) was one of the factors that created a sense of misalignment in my work and life. I share that story to help you see that inauthenticity can occur as a result of circumstances, personality, challenges, choices, and many other factors. Regardless of how we get there, the author Sarah Ban Breathnach reminds us, “Remember, we did not lose ourselves all at once. But we recover our authentic selves one kind gesture at a time.” 

So how do we go about this act of recovering our authentic selves? Or how do we make sure that our ACTION plan is authentically aligned? There are two key pieces that we’ll explore. 

First, let’s talk about the best version of you. The version of you that you imagine you are. You know, the one that you want to be, before the craziness of modern living wreaks havoc on that plan! What characteristics does your best self embody? 

Second is to assess (or review, if you’ve done this already) your values. You are authentically you when your values are in alignment with your actions. Each person’s values are different and unique to them. They can change over time. For example, until I had some health challenges, I didn’t realize how much I truly valued good health. My actions dramatically changed when I prioritized health.  

Any positive action you’re taking needs to help bring you closer to your best self and to your values. On any given day, there are millions of actions you can take, so ensure your actions are creating the alignment that’s been missing.

#PositiveAction What SHOULD do you need to let go of to live and work more in alignment with your values and best self? It feels amazing to let those unrealistic expectations go! 

Image from Pixabay

Once upon a time, I had the worst year of my entire life professionally and personally. That story is too long for today, but suffice it to say that I came to the conclusion that almost nothing was working for me in the way I was approaching my life. 

Whoa! That’s kind of a big, complex problem, huh? 

It’s definitely not the sort of thing you can fix in a single day (or even a single year, but I made, and continue to make, progress!). What’s the solution? I had to get Targeted in my action. I couldn’t fix everything all at once. I needed to focus on the most important thing.

Here’s a simple example. One of my favorite things to do for the new year… *drumroll please!* …is to clean out my closets! I know, I know. It’s a wild and crazy life I lead. Here’s the thing: It gives me a chance to clean spaces that don’t get cleaned very frequently, but more importantly, I can assess the stuff I own and ask questions about it. Does this fit AND flatter? Or Does this align with the current life I lead? Or Have I used this enough to warrant expending my time and space to keep it here? I’m sure this process is starting to sound a lot more fun now!!!

My inner Clutter Conqueror would love to go through the entire house like that. Asking questions, cleaning out all the rooms from top to bottom and ending with a space that even Marie Kondo would be jealous of. But my real life doesn’t afford me the time or energy to do all that. Not to mention the fact that with a family of four, this zen-like space I’m imagining would be back to a mess in 5 minutes flat. 

One choice I could make is to say, “Well, it’s pointless. I might as well do nothing.” Another choice I can (and do!) make is to say, “What is a Targeted approach where I could achieve that aspiration on a smaller scale?” This was how my tradition for cleaning out my closets for the new year was born! 

I focus my attention on one area, knowing that there are lots of other things that could use my attention, energy, and effort too. But I prioritize this activity because of several reasons. 

First, it’s small, which means I can accomplish it in a short amount of time. I love to see progress quickly! Next, it helps me let go of all that other stuff I could/should/wish I had time to work on. Freedom from guilt! Finally, as a recovering perfectionist, it gives me great joy to have a few small spaces of order in the chaos that is my daily life. If you’ve never spent a minute or two gazing upon a well-organized space, you absolutely must try it! Talk about relaxation!! 

Hang on, I think I’m getting slightly off topic. I must be more Targeted!

As I’ve mentioned, resolutions aren’t for me. I love change! I just happen to take a different approach to getting there. One of those different approaches is to select a word of the year. 

I’ve been doing a word of the year for five years now. My previous words include: Grateful, Listen, Release, and Enough 

If you are looking to go deeper on a word of the year, I got the idea from Jon Gordon, but there are lots of others who advocate this approach as well.

What I love about a word of the year is it’s Targeted. It gives me an opportunity to keep my focus on one thing for the entire year. I thought it would be hard to spend a year with a single word, but I have been pleasantly surprised every year by how the word continues to take on new, different, bigger meaning in my life. The fact that it’s Targeted is what makes it so effective.

When you’re thinking about taking positive action, you want your action to be targeted. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you think of all the things you’d like to change or do or be. By making a choice to focus your time, energy, and attention on one thing, it becomes possible to make incredible progress!

#PositiveAction Identify the one thing that is most important for you this year. The Targeted attention will be transformational!

Targeted is the third element of ACTION, part of a series focused on positive action. If you’re new here, welcome! You may want to start at the very beginning with positive action

Image from Pixabay

A long time ago, in a galaxy that didn’t have streaming video (or even DVDs yet), I had a workout video where the host would say, “Consistency is the key to results. See you tomorrow.” I still think about that video now whenever I hear the word consistent! Also, I am thrilled to discover that said workout video is actually still available for sale! It’s worth a watch simply for the hilarious wardrobe choices for everyone involved. Moving on… 

We tend to dismiss the importance of consistency, but if I learned anything from that ancient workout VHS tape, consistency really is the key to results. Isn’t that disappointing? We can’t do something once and expect to see major change. I know I consistently (see what I did there?) struggle with that very real fact. I can’t eat one salad and be considered healthy. I have to consistently choose the salad over the french fries with a side of mayo (try it before you judge!).

If you’re trying to grow a business, you can’t sporadically work harder at it. You need to consistently work toward that growth. It’s the same if you’re trying to change the direction of your career. Sure there are easy things you can do in 5 minutes or less, but you also need to consistently (aka regularly) work toward the change that is your aspiration

Here’s something to consider. Consistency is also a promise to yourself. Once you’ve got your aspiration, that dream worth chasing, you’re making a promise to yourself that you are willing to make the dream happen. It means you show up and do what you need to do. It means that you schedule the timeline to “30 days from now” (not “someday”) and stick with it. 

Unfortunately for many of us, we deprioritize what’s important to us in favor of doing something that is important to someone else. Sometimes that’s generous, but more often, we’re afraid of doing what we need to do and use busy-ness as an excuse to never get around to our own aspirations. If you’re struggling with this, you may want to get the help of an accountability partner to move forward! 

#PositiveAction What promise do you need to make to yourself to bring some consistency to your dreams and resolutions? It’s time to regularly work toward what you want!

Consistent is the second element of ACTION, part of a series focused on positive action. If you’re new here, welcome! You may want to start at the very beginning with positive action

 

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Aspiration is another word for dream (official definition: a hope or ambition to achieve something… sure sounds like a dream to me!) and we’ve talked before about dreaming. Actually, several times, like here, here, and here because I believe it’s one of life’s greatest joys to have a dream you’re working on bringing to life. Of course, a dream doesn’t get you where you want to go without positive action!

I have a chair (shown above) that is my dreaming chair. It’s a 15-year-old recliner that my two cats absolutely adore. It’s the place I go when I want to guarantee some snuggle time with them. It’s also the place I go to slow down and let my mind wander.

As humans, we need both time and space to dream. Creating the physical blocks of time in your daily schedule (yes, daily!) is critical. So is the white space that is created when you have no other distractions, obligations, or activities during that moment of time. In our over-scheduled, always-on world, one of the most productive things you can do is nothing, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Use this post as the permission you’ve been waiting for to kick back and let your mind wander for a few minutes!!

My creativity has been significantly higher this year, partly because I’ve deliberately given myself the time and space for dreaming. Sometimes I hop in my dreaming chair and nothing much happens, other than sitting there. Sometimes I get an idea to solve a problem whether for my business, a client, or my family. Sometimes, I get the inspiration for my next big project! I never know what the outcome is going to be and I don’t have any expectation for it. What I can say with certainty is that I feel renewed and ready to tackle the next task on my list after I’m finished.

You might be wondering how to do this in your daily life. It’s 3 simple steps.

  1. Schedule the time, whether 5 minutes or a whole day off from work, it’s up to you. 
  2. Actually use the time you scheduled. Jerry Seinfeld said it best, “See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.” So make sure you hold the time you scheduled!
  3. Turn off electronic devices and distractions. I promise, all the work and demands and notifications of the world will manage to wait for a few minutes while you do this. Be careful, you might find you actually enjoy uninterrupted time!

When you follow these steps, you’ll start to dream more. You’ll come up with amazing aspirations! Sometimes, it’ll be change-the-world aspirations, like impacting a million or more people in a specific way. Sometimes, it’ll be a simple, change-the-moment thing, like eating healthy food for the rest of the day. The dreams can be all shapes and sizes. The only rule to the dream is that it HAS to be authentically yours. 

In the context of positive action, your actions should be focused on leading you toward your aspirations. Keep asking yourself, what’s one small step I can take today toward my aspiration? You may feel like you have almost no time to devote to it, but there’s still something small you can do each day. If you do that consistently for a month, you’ll be surprised to see how those 30 actions got you further than you imagined possible!

#PositiveAction Spend 5 minutes doing nothing and see where your mind wanders. What aspiration is waiting for your action to bring it to life? 

Aspiration is the first element of ACTION, part of a series focused on positive action. If you’re new here, welcome! You may want to start at the very beginning with positive action

Photo by me, with cuteness added by my two fuzzy buddies!