Lovely Photo by Noel Alva
The Art of Action
If you’ve ever deeply hoped to create something in your life or the world, but struggled to get there, this blog is for you. If you want to kick ass at your life, this blog is for you. If you are an action-taking, change-making ninja in most areas of your life, but continue to struggle with that one thing–this blog is also for you. And this blog is most definitely a vital reminder for me.
Most of us have some idea about what we want to create in our lives. They are often things like less stress, more enjoyment, healthy weight balance, consistent exercise, more creativity, more connection with dear ones, more patience, and work that we love. But knowing what we want to create and actually taking consistent steps in that direction are two very different things.
If acting on our dreams and values was always easy, we’d all be doing it all of the time. But just as soon as we begin, challenges and difficulties are bound to arise. If we don’t have strategies for overcoming the common barriers to action or convince ourselves that there shouldn’t be any challenges, they can totally derail us in the moment. Or worse they can prevent us from doing the things that truly matter to us in our short but precious time here.
The most inspiring and fulfilled people I know have found a way to continue consciously choosing and moving toward their values. They are skillful at the art of action. These are people who are living into their dreams and “deeper why” in all sorts of unique and meaningful ways. They are making positive impacts in their own lives and the world around them. Not because they are lucky or somehow don’t have the challenges the rest of us struggle with, but because they find creative and courageous ways to overcome those barriers and act anyways.
Luckily, it’s not just reserved for a special few. This is something we all have the capacity to become more and more skilled at. And as we do so, we become a greater force for good, however we each define that, in our own lives and in our communities. We become a guiding light for ourselves and others. And the world can always use another light.
Creating A Roadmap
The concept of taking action is simple, but it’s incredibly easy to get thrown off course in the midst of our busy and often demanding daily lives. So creating a roadmap to help us stay on track is crucial to our success. At Luminary we use values, goals, and committed action to draw our map. They form a solid foundation that supports us in acting courageously, especially in the areas of life that challenge us most. Gaining skill with these three things can help us become the bad-ass, action-taking, change-making, bright lights we hope to be.
Values are our true north. They are our hearts deepest desires for the way we want to interact with and relate to the world, other people, and ourselves. They are not goals we can simply achieve, but rather a direction we are moving. They are things like compassion, connection, love, courage, authenticity, inspiration, presence, creativity, learning, and curiosity. My favorite thing about values is that they are always available to us–right now in the present moment! We can always take the next right step, no matter how small, in the direction of our values. Then we can take another. And another.
If we are not consciously clarifying our core values–spending time uncovering and choosing the things that are truly most important to us–we are living by our inherited or unconscious values. We inherit these from our parents, our upbringing, our society, and from other experiences in our lives. As adults it’s up to us to check in with, and continue to refine, our conscious values on a regular basis. I like to think of it as calibrating our compasses. We want to make sure our compass is pointed in our desired direction, so our actions take us somewhere we actually we want to go.
Goals on the other hand are the guideposts that help us head in our valued direction. They are practical, achievable events that move your life in the direction of your values. For example, if you have a value of service you could set a goal to sign up for a volunteer opportunity in your community by the end of the week or take a nourishing meal tomorrow to your friend who just had a baby. Working toward goals without a connection to our values can leave our lives feelings lackluster despite external successes. But when we link these two things together they become a powerful guide.
Committed actions are the actual steps we make toward each guidepost along the journey. For example, in order to meet my goal of signing up for a volunteer activity and move toward my value of service, I need to take a number of different smaller actions like spending 30 minutes researching opportunities and decide what I am interested in today, calling the organization by the end of the week, scheduling a time to volunteer by the end of the month, etc. When we break up our goals into these small, doable actions, even the most duanting goals become possible.
Each day we have countless opportunities to act in a way that brings us closer or further away from our values. And in the next moment we get to choose yet again.
Busting Through Barriers
Difficulty and challenge are a normal part of moving towards our values and living courageously. So we all need some tools to help us bust through potential barriers. We want you to normalize the difficulties, and even get good at forecasting the potential hurdles you’ll likely have to move through to take action.
So let’s look at some common barriers and tips to help you move through those potential roadblocks as they arise. These tips can help you cope with difficulties and challenges in ways you are proud of, and that ultimately help you keep moving toward a life you love.
We all have a finite amount of time, money, energy, and other resources. So logistical conflicts will naturally arise. The Luminary antidote is cultivating creative flexibility. Our plans need to be inherently flexible but committed to what’s most important. You won’t always be able to do all the things that are important to you at once. But you can get creative and flexible in how you take small steps towards all of your goals OVER TIME–and continue acting in line with your values as you do so. Rather than being frustrated by plans changing, we are shifting our mindset to expect that unexpected conflicts will always come up. Then we prepare ourselves to move forward with creativity and flexibility as those conflicts arise.
It’s not possible to meet everyone’s needs all at once, all of the time. But it is possible to make sure everyone’s needs get met, eventually, over time. The Luminary path is an ongoing dance between meeting our own internal needs and the needs of others around us. When when we take the time to get our own needs and goals met, we show up as better human beings to the other people, priorities and commitments we have. It may come with some discomfort to temporarily say “no” to someone or something else you care about in order to say “yes” to yourself for an hour or an afternoon. However, when we refill our own cup we end up feeling like we have an increased capacity to focus on and give to the other important parts of our lives.
Having a full range of emotions is a normal part of the human experience. But when a difficult emotion comes along, we can tend to waste our valuable attention and energy trying to push it away. We start struggling with these feelings and trying to control them. It’s totally normal to react to uncomfortable feelings in this way! However, this struggle often leads us to avoid the things that make us uncomfortable. And then it’s a lot more difficult to stay on track with our values, our goals, and the actions we really want to take. The luminary antidote is to practice mindful acceptance of discomfort. This means making room for and opening up to our painful thoughts and feelings, not because we like them or enjoy them, but so that they don’t get in the way of what matters most to us. Even though we all wish we could avoid difficulty in all it’s forms, the most skillful of us make room for it, relax our struggle with it, and find ways to soften up around it.
We all have unwanted thoughts that come up as we’re moving toward important changes in our lives. Without some strategies to navigate them, they can create major roadblocks to action. Our strategy is to notice and unhook from our challenging thoughts. Our minds are really good at coming up with reasons why things won’t work and why we should or shouldn’t do something. They pretty much have a judgement about everything! This is completely normal. Our minds have evolved to help us predict danger, failure, or difficulty. The most skilled of us have an ability to observe our thoughts and see them in terms of workability versus literality. So instead of getting hooked by wondering if my thoughts are true or not, I can ask myself “how workable is this thought? If I choose to follow it’s direction, is it leading me closer toward a life that I value?” It can be powerful to learn that we can have a thought but we don’t necessarily have to buy into it!
Ineffective or Unsupported Goals
Our society loves goal setting. But even though we hear a lot about goals, few of us have learned effective goal setting strategies. Ineffective and unsupported goals can dilute our efforts and make success more difficult. The Luminary solution is cultivating values-based, SMART goals. SMART stands for specific (specify the who, what, where, when, and how), meaningful (guided by our values), adaptable (inherently flexible), realistic (bold but also considering our logistical limitations), and time-framed (has a specific day, date and time planned for it). This is a tool to come back to over and over again. When we’re struggling with follow through, sometimes it’s because we haven’t put the necessary energy into setting effective goals. It takes additional effort. But if we want them to really work, investing time and energy into developing great goals is truly necessary. Additionally, we recommend surrounding your goals with resources, cheerleaders, learning, and anything else that would help you feel robustly supported.
Disconnection From Our Deeper Why
If you’re lacking in motivation, reflect for a moment on why you’re doing this? What’s important or meaningful about this action? Does it truly matter? When the actions we are wanting to take in the moment are connected to something bigger and more meaningful in our lives, it can give us that final boost, that extra courage we need to make it happen. So we encourage you to keep refining what you want to stand for, how you want to show up in your life, and how you want to behave on an ongoing basis. Then practice taking actions that move you in that direction.
Our hope is that these skills will become the norm, rather than the exception. That we keep encouraging eachother to act on what matters most to us. And that our lives, our communities, and our world will continue to light up as each of us do.
Now it’s your turn to share! What are 3 values that you want to express more of in your life right now? Be courageous and share with us in the comments below!
Onward with Love,