"It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop."
My Mom always used to say as I left for school in the morning; "Remember to make the very most of your day!" Now at age 37, I see the value and the wisdom in what she was sharing with me. Each day we have here on earth is an opportunity to bring our true self forward and to discover who we are just below the surface. One of my favorite quotes by Mavis Leyrer reminds us of living a full, abundant and action-filled life, she says: "Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but to skid in sideways totally worn out, shouting "Wow, what a ride!"
Last month I participated in The Taking Action Program run by The ToDo Institute located near Middlebury in Vermont. Gregg Krech and Linda Anderson Krech are the founders of the ToDo Institute and pioneers in the field of blending the wisdom of Eastern Psychology with the demands of contemporary western lifestyles. The Taking Action program was just what I needed to help me move forward on an unfinished project. While dedicating a certain amount of time daily to working on my project, I came to realize that this was not just about accomplishing a certain task at the end of the 30 days, but rather to change a habit, from procrastinating to learning how to take small daily steps in the direction of bringing my best-self forward. It was time to leave the dirty laundry and dirty dishes for a while, and set aside time during the day to connect with my unique heartsong. It taught me to set aside the feelings of guilt and to allow myself to explore and create that which I longed to share with the world. It became about giving myself permission to fully be me!
Participating in the Taking Action program really stirred some important questions within me; am I living my life fully? With purpose? Am I spending enough time doing what's important to me? Am I using the time I have sensibly? Am I benefiting others or are my actions self-serving? During the month I discovered just how difficult it could be to stick to my new habit. Although I knew that this was a positive new practice, the old way of rushing around and trying to keep up with the demands of everyday life easily got in the way. So if you have an unfinished project that you long to complete or a personal project that you have not made the time for, I hope that you will set aside a certain amount of time each day to begin writing that book, to clean out your closet, to spend some relaxing time scrap booking or time doing yoga or tai chi. Remember to make an appointment with yourself and then honor your special time! So here are 10 simple, although not always easy, steps I learnt that helped me to take action and to move forward on my project:
- Set some time aside for daily self-reflection: This helped me to quiet my mind and to get in touch with my true essence away from all the mind-chatter. In this quiet time I was able to identify what important tasks I have left undone or what new creative projects I had procrastinated on. It was a time for me to connect fully with what I wanted to do, and to become aware of the feelings that arose around the task.
- Set a clear Intention: Deciding clearly on a project. Over the years I have learnt the value of setting clear intentions and learning to define one single project or task. With focus and attention and setting a clear intention, I often find that synchronicities occur that pull me towards my goal.
- Decide to Take Action: this is of course the essence of the program; I needed to constantly choose to take action. To identify what I needed to do, to just do it, and then to decide on what my next step would be. I realized that deliberate action required me to be present in the moment so that I was sure that the actions I was taking supported the choices I had made. I also realized that I cannot think my way to success; essentially I had to take action towards accomplishing my goal
- Make an Appointment with Myself: This I found to be very helpful, even if it was just 20 minutes set aside during the day. I found that it was vital to honor my time, and with this conscious choice came a deeper feeling of respect for my project and myself. I started to look forward to this time in the day where I could be free to express myself. It was important to decide on when I was going to work on my project and to honor my appointment with myself the same way that I would honor a dentist appointment or an appointment at the vet.
- Remain Flexible and Open: Life happens and some things are beyond my control. I learnt to be gentle with myself and not to expect perfection from life or from myself. Some days where definitely more challenging than others. There were some days that I made substantial improvement and other days were I did not. I also learnt that it was ok to make mistakes, and that making mistakes is just part of the journey of being human.
- Take Small Consistent Steps: This was an exciting discovery to me half way through the project. I found this very helpful when I felt outside my comfort Zone. A small step in the right direction proves to be far more beneficial in the long run, as opposed to taking no steps at all due to feelings of overwhelm, anxiety or confusion. This seems to be a very effective way to handle stress.
- Learn to Co-exist with Uncomfortable feelings: When I was feeling drained, frustrated or weighed down, I found it was important to just show up. Taking a small step, even just sitting at my desk for 5 minutes and browsing through my paperwork, would often spur me into taking action. Once I got started, the uncomfortable feelings often disappeared and instead I was left with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
- Create Community: Connecting with like-minded people who share a similar vision and working together in harmony, offering encouragement, insights and ideas in a non-competitive way, is a very positive and uplifting experience. It is very helpful to learn and grow from other people's input and experiences. A sense of community helped me to recognize that I was not alone in experiencing struggles, failures, accomplishments and victory along the way.
- Show Up: Just Show up! Repetition is very powerful, and with continually showing up for the appointments I set for myself, I truly feel as if I formed a new habit. I understand that in the future I will have many more challenges to overcome in regard to avoiding certain tasks that I find unpleasant, but learning to go ahead and deal with my fears and frustrations while at the same time taking constructive action, is ultimately a very liberating experience.
- Have Fun: I have found it important not to take myself or life too seriously! To remember to enjoy the journey and not to get so focused on the destination that I forget to have fun, to laugh, to remain supple and flexible to life and to live with an open heart.
We cannot live a happy, abundant or fulfilling life without taking the necessary action that is required of us. We are indeed each one strand in the web of life, and by showing up and stepping up we can help ourselves and thereby help others in this beautiful, intricate dance of life.
"Don't think of results, just do."