3 Keys of Designing Action Steps that You Actually Do

Insights without action are like having ideas without expression. They’re nice but not very useful.

Most people go to a conditional motivation system. You know, rewards or punishments.

The motivation can be positive. For example, you get to eat that piece of chocolate once you finish your workout. It can also be negative. For example, you can’t go snowboarding on the weekend if you don’t finish up your work for the week.

However, conditional motivation only goes so far and relies too much on focusing on the awesomeness (or pain) of a future moment to get action done in the present.

The general rule for living a more fulfilling life is to focus more and more on the satisfaction of the present moment.

I’d like to share what I’ve seen work best when designing actions. I’ve coached hundreds of clients and trained hundreds of coaches, and it comes back to these key components:

Key #1: Include an Aspect of Learning in the Action Step

At the heart of coaching is an irony. The best way to create an action step isn’t to focus on the action step; it’s to focus on an insight a client has had in a coaching session. If an action has a learning component, such as “What do I notice happens when I use my planner everyday for two weeks straight?” clients are much more likely to follow through.

Key #2: Identify the YES and the NO

Technically, it’s call an ecology of resources. If you say ‘yes’ to something, such as adding extra workouts to your schedule, you have to say ‘no’ to something else. You could say ‘no’ to chilling out for an hour with Netflix and get to bed earlier so you can get up with energy. But who wants to do that? Maybe the exercise is worth it? Maybe not?

Ultimately, identifying what you’re saying no to creates more clarity on what you’re adding and what you’re subtracting. The ecology of resources states that you can’t just add without taking something else away.

Key #3: Boldest Vision. Smallest, Bite-Size You Can Imagine

Start with the boldest vision you can imagine. Let’s say I want to write a novel that positively impacts a generation. I would start by breaking it down to the tiniest, smallest, bite-size steps I can imagine. I create a goal of writing 30 minutes, twice a day. Every morning and night, I stare at a page and put down words. Once the goal is set, there is a relentless focus on the actual action step that’s going to make it happen.

So often, the meaning of what we’re trying to accomplish, whether that’s establishing a successful business to make a living or working out so that I can live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy more years with my grandkids, becomes so heavy that it overwhelms us.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the big picture, it is important to take a step back and move the focus on taking smaller, simpler steps.

With those three key components in mind, it is now up to you to get those wheels moving and enjoy the traction and joy of laying down some tracks of rubber.

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