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The Definitive Guide to Taking Action

What is it you really want to be doing right now? I don’t mean eating pizza and watching “New Girl”, I mean what is it you really want to be doing with your life?

You could be working on a novel, travelling the world, becoming a famous DJ, volunteering for the less fortunate, launching a business, or just about anything.

But if you’re like most people, you aren’t actually doing what you want to be doing.

Instead you’ve settled for something that pays the bills and passes the time while quietly convincing yourself that you can’t actually achieve that grand vision you secretly have for yourself.

The truth is that the only barriers between you and any form of success that you want to achieve is time and action.

I know – you have a million excuses as to why you can’t pursue your dreams. You’re not rich enough, your parents/peers/partner/mailwoman won’t approve, you’re afraid of failure, and a bunch of other stuff.

But you know the truth; those are just excuses you use to hold yourself back. Deep down inside, you know that with dedication and ingenuity you can work your way around all of those barriers. You know that the only real thing separating you from where you are now and where you want to be is time and action.

Time is going to pass automatically, so other than becoming a productivity ninja, there isn’t much you can do about that.

Action though is in your complete control. I’ve found that most people want to take action on their dreams, but they don’t know how.

To make this process easier, I’ve put together the definitive guide to taking action. To illustrate some of the details, I will use volunteering in Haiti as an example of taking action on your dreams.

The Definitive Guide to Taking Action

1) Own your vision. To own your vision is to admit to yourself that this vision is something really important to you and something you’re going to start working on now.

The ways to own your vision of volunteering in Haiti is by committing to making this trip a reality and breaking through any barriers that may prevent you from success.

2) Break it down into actionable steps. Most visions start off as grand visions. We see the end result without seeing how to get from where we are now to where we want to be. In order to smoothly take action, you have to break your grand vision down into actionable steps.

You can’t simply volunteer in Haiti. Instead, you have to complete a series of actions that eventually result in your volunteering in Haiti. For example: find a volunteer org that is a good match for you, apply, fundraise, catch your flight to Port-au-Prince, etc.

3) Setup a timeline with rewards and punishments. Once you’ve broken your vision down to actionable steps you have to execute your timeline effectively. Assign a deadline for each action step, as well as a reward for completion, and a punishment for procrastination. I strongly suggest you make the rewards something that you truly enjoy and the punishments something you seriously dislike.

For example, if you want to volunteer in Haiti, your timeline may look like this:

April 15: make a list of 15 volunteer organizations I could work with in Haiti
Reward for completion: 30 minutes of watching prank videos on youtube
Punishment for failure: I will pay Will $50.

April 30: narrow the list of organizations down to the top 3, and apply to those 3
Reward: I’ll buy myself a pizza from Red Rocks
Punishment: I will spend 5 hours as Rob’s personal assistant/maid/chef/whatever and I will be obligated to complete any task he assign’s me.

4) Create accountability. Your rewards and punishments will not inspire you if you don’t have accountability. By asking other people to hold you accountable, you will create a support system that ensures you progress and encourages you along the way.

There are a different ways to find accountability. I like to ask 5 or 6 of my friends to hold me accountable. Others like to post their goals and reports on social media sites.

For volunteering in Haiti, you could email your timeline, along with the related rewards and punishments to a group of friends. Tell your friends that you will be giving them status updates along the way. Ask them to help you fulfill each step of the process and ensure you receive the appropriate reward or punishment.

5) Act. Finally, once you’ve done all the prep work, begin to take action. Nothing at all will happen until you’ve taken action. The final, and most important step is to act.

Privately, you know what it is you really want to be doing right now. The secret to translating your dreams into reality is to take action on them. You have the power to build an amazing life for yourself and beautiful communities for others. It simply comes down to action. Good luck!

[Note: this article is from the Ignited Leadership monthly newsletter. You can sign up for the monthly newsletter here. If you prefer more frequent tips on leadership, you can subscribe to receive blog updates, which happen several times a week, by signing up with the form in the right hand column of this page]

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