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We’re all human and change can be tough. Its easy for us to get stuck in a rut, or in our comfort zone – and this can lead to our good intentions and Big Thinking dying on the vine. Nasty things like fear and emotion can sometimes block us from action.
Getting unstuck and out of a rut is challenging. I always start out by taking baby steps. For example, looking at my personal vision and goals, my first step is to identify my most urgent goal. Currently this is getting more involved in my community and building out my network of friends. My goal in 5 years time is to be a leader of a community organisation, and to be an active member of a two other groups focused on areas of personal interest. The next question is – what can I do this week to move forward with this?
I’ve learned that to successfully achieve goals like this I need to take two parallel tracks – taking actions in the world around me, and working on what goes on between my two ears in my internal world. To achieve my goal I came up with the following plan that covers both areas:
- Actions in the outside world – I’ve already researched community groups that interest me on the internet and identified an organisation called Slow Down London and a local running club. I’ll commit to calling a representative of Slow Down London to find out more about how I can be involved. I’ll also commit to going to the running club next week to see how I enjoy it. Making these real life commitments and keeping them moves me towards my goal and vision.
- Actions in my inner world – Although I’m a sociable and outgoing person, I have always avoided joining groups and societies. Something inside me has held me back from this for all of my adult life. I’ve been meaning to attend this running club for nearly a year now and haven’t done it. To successfully achieve the goal in a sustainable way, I need to understand more about this and overcome this issue, or the initial actions I take will probably quickly fade away. I’ll commit to observing the thoughts and emotions that come up this week as I take my first steps. Perhaps I’ll identify a fear of rejection if I turn up to the running club and no-one talks to me the first time. I know that I have a tendency to think I can do things better than anyone else (I’m wrong of course), and get frustrated in group situations, so I’ll look out for that feeling. I’ll record the thoughts, emotions and stories I’m telling myself about groups, and spend time analysing them to see what is working for me and what isn’t. I’ll come up with different ways to think about clubs and different stories to tell. If I commit to this and work hard at it, it should make it easier for me to happily commit to clubs and societies in the future.
I know that joining a new group is hard for me and the physical action of doing so will help. However, unless I can get my head straight, it will never get any easier. So taking the first step, actually involves taking two steps and each is vital. At the beginning, I said that making change is hard for us, and this explains why.
So how can you take your first step? Follow this simple process to design your actions this week:
1) Identify your most pressing challenge or area that you want to work on (for me, my community)
2) Identify the specific area for development (for me, involvement in community groups)
3) Design some specific actions to take that are realistic over the next week. Remember that great journeys start with a single step, so don’t overdo it
4) Think about how your thoughts, emotions, fears, beliefs and stories might be impacting your ability to be successful. Determine to observe these over the next week without judgment and write these things down. When did you feel fear and what was behind that? What stories did you tell about yourself (I’m not good with new people) that might stop you in your tracks. Consider which thoughts might be holding you back and analyse them – is that story, fear or emotion realistic? How could you think in a different way or tell a different story that would be more helpful in achieving your goals?
This approach was difficult and frustrating when I first tried it, however over time and with practice it has become more instinctive. If you can stick with it, you’ll find it gets easier to take the actions in the external world as you remove the mental and emotional blocks you’ve built up. Week by week you’ll start to get unstuck and make steady progress towards living your vision and achieving your goals.
So now you have the three steps that I use to think big and make it happen– creating a vision, setting a 5 year plan, and taking external and internal steps to achieve this. The world is your oyster, so think big and make the most of your life!
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