In my coaching programs I tell my clients all the time that it’s better to do 15 (or even 5!) minutes of action related to their priorities every day than to plan on getting in a big 2-hour chunk once a week. I call it the power of “imperfect action.”
Sure, it would be great if you could do a big 2-hour chunk once a week. But if you are choosing between doing a lot of some activity every now and then OR doing a little bit every day (or most days), choose little and often.
I’m assuming, given the fact that you are reading my article and not something written by Tony Robbins, that you are more interested in greater inner peace and overall well-being than world domination.
I’m also assuming that you are drawn to my work mostly because you want to cultivate your capacity for attention, awareness, compassion, courage, perseverance, commitment, flexibility, and self-kindness.
For that kind of life, little and often is of more benefit than big chunks every now and then or even every day.
So if your inner taskmaster has been giving you a hard time about doing a little (“Just 5 minutes of meditation? Really? That’s all you are going to do?” or “You only wrote 3 pages? That won’t amount to anything.”), here are some responses you might want to try:
- A little every day is doing me more good than a lot once a week; and (most importantly)
- It’s what I decided would be enough, and it is enough. I am satisfied (even if the relentless taskmaster in my head isn’t).
So, let’s think of some long-held dream or goal of yours. I know there must be something you want to accomplish—something you haven’t yet taken action on because it seems too big. You may have convinced yourself that any small effort you might make can’t be worth it.
But think for a moment. Give this question your full attention: Is there a condition to taking action that is out of your control? Does taking action require resources you don’t yet have? Is it an action that needs for something else to happen at some point in the future?
Let’s say, for example, that you want to start your own business. To do that, you know that you’d have to clear any number of hurdles. There’d be money to scrape together, business plans to draw up. You might have to change significant parts of your lifestyle. And from where you stand now, it all probably seems so far down the road that there’s no point in even turning on the engine.
But that’s not true. If you think hard enough, if you really consider, you will come up with something you can do right now. You could start by asking for advice from someone you know who runs a successful business. Or you could start by simply writing down why you want to start such a business. In ten seconds you can start your car; in five minutes you can start the journey to your dreams.
So—do you have a goal in mind? Great.
Now here are 3 simple steps that will help you determine an action that focuses just on what you can do, now, with the resources currently available to you.
What is a single action you can take that is:
- within your control (it doesn’t rely on the cooperation of someone else)
- within your current resources, and
- immediate (doesn’t require you to wait).
Now that you’ve answered these questions, you are ready to take “imperfect action,” and it really is more than enough. Now, go and do it!
And if you had already decided on and taken a first step, but then you got stuck, use those three criteria to find another step you can take.
Bonus points if you choose an action that makes your inner critic start to sit up and pay attention, something that makes the snoozing guard of your comfort zone sit up in her chair and say: “Hey, you, where do you think you are going?”, which often comes out sounding like “Who do you think you are?”
Recognize the fear, look at it with kindness and say “Thank you for your concern, but I trust myself on this one. I’ve got it. You can trust me too. I PROMISE.”
And then go ahead and take that step.
Remember: Little and often. It’s my mantra, and you know what? It helps.
What helps you take the small steps that lead to your big dreams? Please share in the comments!
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