Imagine, someone asks you
What are your top three goals in life?
I’m pretty sure you’d be able to answer without having to think.
These goals are likely your life’s top priorities.
And if you’re anything like me, one or more of these goals have remained the same for a while so you know them out of sheer practice.
The practice that comes with your mind nagging you about them like a mother.
A concerned mother, worried why you aren’t acting upon what’s best for you.
Making you squirm, fret, even beat yourself up but could never get you to do the things you needed to do.
If that’s you, congratulations, you’ve got company!
Until recently, I have been pretty cool about my inaction.
Except on occasions when everywhere I looked, I’d see people who seemed to have it all figured out.
They were doing the things they wanted to do and were pretty happy, accomplished, fitter, richer, well-travelled and more.
At least their Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram said so.
All success stories everywhere.
And here I was caught up in my mind.
Struggling with the same old goals of losing weight, improving my work-life balance (if there was such a thing), trying to make more money, getting calmer and yes, to become a more loving parent.
Hah! what a loser I have been in the sea of people who knew how to take action.
I mean, seriously.
Have you ever thought, how it would feel if every time you put your mind to something, you got it done?
You didn’t start and stop.
You never got off track.
You just finished what you started.
Pretty amazing, right?
If you’re so smart, so aware of your priorities, why aren’t you taking action?
It was November of 2018.
I was getting ready for the winters. Cleaning up my closet and putting away the summer clothes.
To my embarrassment but no surprise, I had a huge pile of clothes from my past years that I had kept in the hope of fitting into someday.
To be honest, I wished and hoped and prayed to wear them (one day) without going breathless or having the seams burst open if I took a moment to catch a breath.
Those were pretty regular thoughts for me. Something I thought about every time I looked at myself in a full-length mirror.
Though this time, I couldn’t, just couldn’t shrug them off like I did every other time.
So I sat down with my journal (an introvert’s best companion) to see what was going on.
I noted that the nudge had come from a remark my beautician had made in my post-Diwali visit to her salon. She’d casually mentioned that I looked healthier than before (code for you look fatter than ever before).
I had managed to brush it off in humour by crediting it all to the Diwali sweets. But the hurt, the awareness that my extra weight showed wouldn’t let me be at peace.
I had to do something about it.
I couldn’t put it off any longer.
As I started analysing my thoughts, I got curious to know why despite full knowledge of what I needed to do to lose weight, I wasn’t taking any action.
I wanted to be clear why I had spent huge portions of my life in the frustrating rationalization of not doing what I knew was best for my life.
If I were to look back on my life and write down the one wish I have had consistently, it would be to get fitter and reach the ideal weight for my height.
However, from as early as when I was in first grade in school, I was an overweight kid. I was constantly bullied at school and made fun of by my cousins.
Occasionally, I did try cutting down eating fat in almost all forms and even restricted my sugar intake (even as a teenager) but that didn’t last very long.
I have been an exerciser all my life. Going for walks, adding cycling and sometimes even playing badminton but none of those ever got me consistent results.
Let’s be honest here, I was pretty irregular with those routines, but to my mind, I was still trying my best.
However, this time, I had had enough.
I was not ready to continue living my life the way it was.
I was tired of wishing to get slimmer and fitter before my next birthday.
I had been wishing for it consistently for close to twenty years or perhaps even more. That was mainly because among all other days of the year, on my birthday I would always be photographed and I had proof of my inaction for every year gone by.
When I started reflecting on why I wasn’t taking any action I encountered a long laundry list of reasons.
Well, some people might be tempted to call them excuses. I don’t mind that.
Yes, I’m pretty cool that way!
I was pretty amazed by the sheer variety of reasons my mind had been coming up with.
Here’s the tip of the iceberg:
- “I don’t have the time.”
- “The conditions aren’t right (insert the weather conditions or any health issue)”
- “I don’t know where to begin.”
- “Nothing I do will make a difference.”
- “I’m trapped.”
- “I need to know more.”
- “I’m a perfectionist.”
- “I’m already doing the best I can.” (after all, I had been exercising all along)
- “I have no resources at the moment to buy a gym membership or to invest in a personal trainer.”
- “I’m drained from my existing obligations.”
- “I’m not an achiever.”
- “I am taking action!” (see, I was trying to keep these positive)
- “My body is broken from being overweight all my life. Maybe that’s how I was always meant to be.”
- “I don’t have the will power to stay put.”
As I made a list of my excuses that had only changed form but were omnipresent in my journals, I realised how baseless they were. Almost on the verge of not being true (enough).
Which meant I needed to dig deeper.
And that is usually my cue for getting into researching.
Not within my mind.
Not in my life or my actions.
But on Google.
No matter how many articles, motivational thoughts or books I read, Newton’s First Law of motion was at play.
I needed an external force to set me free from inertia, the vicious circle of thoughts that lead to inaction.
“The more information that’s out there, the greater the returns to just being willing to sit down and apply yourself.
Information isn’t what’s scarce; it’s the willingness to do something with it.”
~ Tyler Cowen
A few days later, at the dining table, my family and I were discussing the medical condition of an acquaintance. The person in question was a 45-year-old young man who was recently diagnosed for alarming levels of blood pressure and a high risk of heart disease.
As the doctor warned him of dire consequences, we were amazed to note how he’d made a significant change in his lifestyle. Something which he had repeatedly failed at in the past.
This made me think.
What is it that getting a critical diagnosis changes that we can’t change otherwise?
Our attitude can’t change in an instant.
Neither can our personality.
People in our life don’t change (though they might get cautious or act alarmed) and neither do our circumstances suddenly change.
Then what is it that flips the switch?
It is most certainly our mindset.
Because everything else, outside of ourselves is beyond our control.
As it has been since the beginning of time and I’m pretty sure it’ll continue to be so.
It has to be our thoughts that can be the gamechanger. The catalyst of favourable change.
But can we control our thoughts?
Can we guide them to serve us favourably?
I’d say, yes we can control our thoughts and even guide them.
How else would we ever change any of our habits?
Isn’t this what we do when we have to get ourselves to do something we don’t really want to do?
Like having to get out of bed on a chilly morning (something that isn’t what you really want to do then) and take a shower and go with the morning grind so that you can get to work on time.
Or if you work from home like me, to get the kid ready for school on time.
We tell our minds to change the track of our thoughts, all the time.
And as soon as you steer them in a different direction, you notice you start feeling differently about the very circumstance.
From feeling lazy and unwilling to step out of the bed you immediately step out of bed and feel ready to take charge.
Simply by deciding to think more positively.
Simply by tweaking a thought.
Once I’d figured this piece, I was left with no choice but to admit that I (or rather my heart of heart) knew the answer I was seeking.
Common sense says if you aren’t taking action despite having enough information resources and support chances are that –
You don’t really want it.
Did I really want to change?
Because if I did, I would find a way to make things work.
That’s exactly where I started.
I started asking myself if I really wanted to lose weight.
Though this time, I started noting every detail, every thought in my journal.
Some of the questions that helped me get a crystal clear view were:
Did I want to lose weight because that would change how the world perceived me?
Did I want to lose weight because my friends and family wanted me to do it?
Is my primary reason for wanting this goal, fear or confusion?
Do I lack concrete reasons for wanting to lose weight? Is it just a vanity issue?
Do the reasons why I want to lose weight take me away from or closer to my vision of a better future?
Is there no cost of inaction?
“So she became impulsive, scared by her inaction into perpetual action…
She was scared, sure.
But more importantly, maybe she’d been scared of being paralyzed by fear again.”
~ John Green
This might seem like a LOT of work in the start.
But once you consider that our mind processes around 60,000 thoughts each day, these few questions aren’t all that many.
Once I started there was no looking back.
My mind soon turned into a question generator that prompted me to just begin.
To take things further, I decided I was ready to share my resolve with the universe and my blog readers. I wrote all about it in my post, what is the one struggle that is holding you back?
The more questions I answered, the more I journaled, the stronger my resolve got.
And here I am, 11 months after that day, having lost all my weight and having successfully maintained it for over 5 months.
What today feels like a miracle, a dream come true started with the willingness to answer simple questions.
Ideas for Taking Action
These are my top strategies of getting my ace procrastinator self to take action even when planning and postponing is tempting.
♥ Schedule it on your calendar
Only the things that top your to-do list and get scheduled in your calendar get done.
For me my fitness is a non-negotiable. No-matter what turn my life takes, I make room for an hour of workout each day. I make sure I schedule it in my day before-hand.
I have adopted a similar approach to writing. I have stopped having writer’s blocks since I started scheduling time for writing and planning about it in advance.
♥ Set a deadline
For the tasks that don’t get done daily and that need lot of prior planning, learning and preparation, I set a deadline (well before the deadline) to make sure I’m on time.
Having a deadline on my calendar keeps me safe from procrastnation because I treat my calendar with high regard. I like to maintain a winning streak of having kept the personal commitments I made to myself.
I learnt to maintain a daily food and fitness journal by setting weekly assessment deadlines. I do a full week assessment before a weekly weigh in to have unbiased reflection on my fitness strategies. And to be able to do that I need daily journaling.
Are you at a point in your life where you desperately want to change something?
Have you had enough of your inaction?
Then now is the time to get started.
Today is the day.
Not sure where to start? Look no further.
I’ve shared the detailed process I underwent to begin taking action in my planner workbook, How To Set Goals & Crush Them. You can grab your free copy of the Workbook to begin crushing goals like never before.
Not only does it give some great inspiration for how to model an achiever mindset, but it also shines the light on how to make your every day empowering while working towards your goals.
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The song on my mind: Ye raatein, nayi purani ~ Julie