How to Move Beyond Inspiration and Actually Take Action
Today we have a guest post by Clipping Chains who shares how anyone can move beyond inspiration and actually take action to improve their lives – physically, mentally, and financially.
Across the internet, it’s easy to find an endless rabbit hole of self-help and motivational content to make our lives better.
What’s much harder, though, is taking concrete steps to enact change in our lives. Here I argue that taking action, not a lack of awareness, may be the single biggest barrier to being the person we want to be.
Here’s the truth: There’s almost nothing I write that hasn’t already been said. And if you thumb through the pages of this website and many others, you’ll read plenty of insightful — yet recycled — ideas. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes a different perspective is necessary to illicit a response from any of us.
For instance, the successful money-saving strategy of an engineer with a six-figure income may do little to inspire change in you. However, someone managing to save $130k on a teacher’s salary might raise some eyebrows. We all have a unique personal history, so it’s critical to find a voice that speaks to you.
But once we find that voice of inspiration, it’s still often a struggle to enact change.
While we’re at it, let’s examine the meaning of inspiration. Here’s one of the many definitions:
Inspiration: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
In terms of steering the ship that is our life, we need inspiration to be more of the “doing” variety.
Many folks end up on personal finance websites for the same reasons:
(1) discontent in a career
(2) financial struggles.
And then it goes something like this: we read something “inspirational”, think it’s a good idea, maybe read some more, and promptly do nothing.
Below is my all-time favorite (and shockingly brilliant and profound) quote:
“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody want to lift no heavy-ass weights.” -Ronnie Coleman
I’ve kept this quote printed on both my office wall and my home training “dungeon” for upwards of 5 years. It’s so true!
Who doesn’t want a good life?
Who doesn’t want freedom?
Don’t we all want 15% body fat and a 7-figure net worth?
Wouldn’t it be great to be recognized for some grand achievement?
We all want “success”, but so few are willing to take personal accountability and lift the proverbial “heavy-ass weights” in life.
Why Aren’t We Taking Action?
We blame. It’s someone or something else’s fault: society, the government, our boss, our children, daylight savings time, our hormones, the weather, that damn back pain. Choose your own adventure:
“It’s not my fault I’m _____ because ____.”
Now I don’t want to undermine the real and difficult limitations people face. But many of our perceived limitations are simply limiting beliefs. So, we need to first ask ourselves: what are we doing to change our situation?
Taking action is no simple task. Inherently, many of us are procrastinators. We hear or read about an idea, make a mental note to act on that idea, but then fall victim to time. The passing of time dilutes the power of inspiration, and that once-grand concept now becomes a bit “meh” in our minds.
Taking Action: Start Small and Do It Often
The first step is to do something, anything.
If you sleep in until 10:00 am, you might have a goal to start getting up at 8:00 am. But don’t go all-in at once and get overzealous on me, because that change is harsh and will probably lead to burn-out.
Tonight, you should set an alarm for 9:30. If you get out of bed at 9:30 tomorrow, pat yourself on the back and consider it a successful day.
There need not be massive change overnight. Making a better life is the aggregation of marginal gains, a concept made famous by Bill Brailsford.
I’m a climber and I want more finger strength. I can’t expect to hang from my fingerboard every once-in-a-while and see lasting gains. I need a dedicated plan with weeks of intentional effort, and I need to cycle that plan for years.
Frustratingly, I shouldn’t even expect gains session-over-session, or even season-over-season! Maybe I was tired, didn’t eat right, work was draining, or the stars didn’t align. But I showed up, started taking action, and that effort will pay over the long-term.
I’m not going for a 20% change overnight, just an effort that might bring small marginal gains – once stacked together over time – provide very real differences.
I also have dismal flexibility, and so does everyone else in my family. It’s clear that genetics have played a role in my misfortune, so why not just give up?
Even if I can improve my flexibility by 1%, I’ll take whatever advantage I can get.
So, I stretch and do mobility drills every day, forming a lasting habit and bedtime ritual. Day after day, I see no change, but looking back at my abilities from years ago, the changes are obvious. I spend 5-10 minutes, making the habit easy to schedule and sustainable.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the end-goal, examine the process. Keep showing up, and your efforts will pay dividends.
Although no pun was intended, it’s funny how money works the same way. If we can make small changes in our habits, save a little more, invest a little more, the compounding effects are huge!
A trove of inspiration means nothing if we aren’t willing to start taking action.
When we come across something inspiring, the key is to act as soon as possible. The longer we delay, the less likely we are to implement that idea we once found to be so meaningful.
Start with small incremental adjustments, breaking down the task into bite-size chunks. Continue to “show up” by taking action on your goals often, not expecting any more than the most modest gains.
Eventually, you’ll be blown away by the results and proud of yourself for the effort. Taking action on future line items becomes easier with the success of past efforts.
What can you do today that you’ve been putting off?
Find more articles by Mr. CC over at Clipping Chains.