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How Massive Action Can Cause Epic Failure

How Massive Action Can Cause Epic Failure

    There comes a point where you just become dissatisfied with something in your life.

    Maybe it’s that growing spare tire that hangs over your belt. Maybe it’s that cluttered desk that’s quickly becoming a quagmire of misplaced objects. Or maybe it’s the fact that you’re spending another Friday night at home alone.

    Everyone has their own goals in life.

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    Usually when we start to work toward a goal, we try to make some sort of dramatic and sweeping change.

    We’ll vow to exercise every day and to adhere to an extreme diet. We might spend an entire weekend de-cluttering everything. Or we might decide to go to a social event and make a point to have a conversation with every person there.

    Radical and sweeping changes make us feel like we are making progress toward something. We feel like we’re shaking things up and changing our lives for the better overnight.

    However, they rarely last.

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    Why Massive Action Sets the Stage for Failure

    We all have a certain inertia that helped us originally get to this dissatisfying point in our lives. A collection of habits and beliefs accumulate and result in that extra weight, the messy house, or the lack of friends.

    Doing something big and dramatic might make you feel better — and it might get you a bit of instant gratification. But rarely does this massive action overcome the inertia.

    Slowly the diet becomes filled with “just the occasional” trip to the drive-thru. The organization system becomes sidelined because you “just don’t have enough time” to file those papers right now. Or the bold steps to make more friends become bogged down because you’re “having a bad day” and can’t be bothered to make small talk.

    Before you know it, you’re right back to where you started. And you’re probably kicking yourself as well, thinking that you just don’t have what it takes.

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    So if huge dramatic efforts don’t always help make lasting change, what is an alternative?

    Take the Smallest Action

    This idea is popularly known as Kaizen, a Japanese term that advocates continuous improvement through very small changes.

    Small actions may also be less intimidating than committing to a huge heroic effort that often leaves you less productive. They meet with less internal resistance because they are so easy and painless. Small actions don’t conjure up feelings of dread at the thought of giving up your favorite guilty pleasures or condemning yourself to perpetually doing something makes you uncomfortable.

    So, you might throw out one bite of an unhealthy meal before eating it to lose weight. You might take one misplaced object on your desk each day and put it where it belongs. Or you might make eye contact with one stranger every day.

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    How Smaller Actions Have a Bigger Impact

    These steps may not seem like they would make much of an impact, but they can start to dissolve the habits and beliefs that got you into trouble in the first place. You can start to practice better portion control by not eating on everything on your plate. You can begin to make organization a habit by doing a small amount of cleaning every day. Or you can get used to interacting with people in a small way to overcome the initial resistance.

    And gently changing the beliefs and habits that got you into trouble in the first place is going to have a much bigger impact than trying to push against them and blast through them.

    I’ve used small actions to help me reach goals in the past, and what I’ve discovered is that they can erode initial resistance and help to change habits and beliefs in a way that massive actions sometimes cannot.

    If you’ve failed at reaching your goals by taking large actions, only to find procrastination, fear, or self-sabotage creeping in then maybe you should consider taking small actions instead.

    What’s one small action you could take today?

    (Photo credit: Fun 3D Image via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on December 17, 2018

    Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

    Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

    We live in a time of productivity overload.

    Everywhere you turn are articles and books about how to be more productive, how to squeeze 27 hours of work out of every 24, how to double your work pace, how to do more and more all in the name of someday getting out of the rat race. Well this is about the side effects of those ideas. If we aren’t multitasking, we feel lazy. If we aren’t doing everything, we feel like we’re slacking. We compare ourselves to others who we think are doing more, having more, getting more and achieving more, and it’s driving us crazy. We feel overwhelmed when we think we have too much to do, too much is expected of us, or that a stressor is too much for us to handle. And we respond by lashing out with emotions of anger, irritability, anxiety, doubt and helplessness.

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    This season especially is the most stressful time of year. Between the holidays, final exams, family gatherings and general feelings of guilt that it’s the end of the year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things you still need to get done. But if you use these tips, not only will you get the important stuff done, you’ll keep your sanity while doing it!

      Is this you?

      Change your thought pattern-stop thinking negatively

      When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you do is start thinking negatively or begin to resent why it’s your responsibility in the first place! The first thing you have to do is to stop! Stop thinking negatively immediately. Instead, focus on the positive. If you’re stuck in traffic, think of how great it is to have some time to yourself. If you’re rushing trying to get things done by a deadline, think how lucky you are to have a purpose and to be working towards it. If you’re stressing about a final exam, think of how fortunate you are to be given the opportunity of higher education. After you’ve changed your thought patterns, you must then say to yourself “I can do this.” Keep saying it until you believe it and you’re more than halfway to ending feeling overwhelmed.

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      Take a deep breath/change your body posture

      When you’re stressed certain things happen to your body. You start to breath shallowly, you hunch over, you immediately tense up and all that tension drives your feelings of stress even more. Relax! Straighten your posture and take at least ten deep, cleansing, breaths. Force yourself to smile and do something to change your state. It could be as simple as giving yourself a hug or as silly as clapping your hands three times, throwing them up in the air and shouting “I GOT THIS!” Think to yourself, how would I sit/stand if I had perfect confidence and control of the situation?

      Focus on right now

      Now that you are in a better state of mind and are no longer thinking negatively, you need to focus on the here and now. Ask yourself this question: What is the most important thing I have control of and can act on right now? Keep asking yourself this until you have a concrete next step.

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      Take Action

      Now that you know what’s most important and what to do about it, do it! Start with the first step and focus on getting that done. Don’t worry about anything else right now, just on what your first step is and how to get it done. Once that’s done with, determine the next most important step and get that done.

      Let go of what you can’t control (the gambler’s theory)

      Seasoned gamblers understand the importance of due diligence and knowing when to let go. The Gambler’s Theory is that once your bet is placed there is nothing you can do, so you might as well relax and enjoy the process. The time to worry is when you’re figuring out the best odds and making the decision of what to bet when you can actually take action. I used this one a lot in college. After an exam, there is absolutely no point in stressing about it. There’s nothing you can do. And the same goes for feeling overwhelmed. If you can do something about your situation, do it, focus and take action. But if you’ve done what you could and now are just waiting, or if you’re worried about something you have no control over, realize that there’s no point. You might as well relax and enjoy the moment.

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        Relax and enjoy the moment

        Stop feeling guilty

        Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. If you are at your wits end trying to keep up with what you think you should be doing, you aren’t being fair to yourself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improvement, just don’t go overboard because you feel like you have to. Only you know what’s really important to you, and your personal success journey so focus on what your top priorities are, not someone else’s.

        Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. The important thing is to realize it’s normal and that you can do something about it by taking focused and deliberate action. Happy Holidays!

        Featured photo credit: Stress Therapy via flickr.com

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