Discovery is the first step. Now it’s time to take action.
In previous article, we talked about finding things that are personally meaningful to you. Now that you’ve come up with a list, it’s time to go after them. But before getting into that, you have take a close look at the real value of each activity you’re considering.
Some activities don’t add to one’s quality of life. They can’t feel like chores or think they’ll be chore-ish down the road. For an activity to be worth anything you have to look forward to doing it and be emotionally invested, not just use them to fill time. This is really key — you can’t spend your time in low-grade activities and expect them to make you feel good about yourself.
“When one door closes, another one opens, but we often look so long and regretfully at the closed door that we fail to see the one that has opened for us.”
–Alexander Graham Bell
You should also pursue more than one. Not all personally meaningful and emotionally invest-able activities produce the same psychological benefits. For example, activities that are simple yet fun work differently than those that are more serious and have problem solving components; and those that you do alone are different from those you do with others. Only doing solo activities may lead you to feel isolated and disconnected, and that’s never good of one’s emotional well-being. Activities you do with others, such as sports or joining clubs promote psychological and physical health, because you’re socially connected. Even social activities can be broken down further — some, like club membership, are more entertaining; others are work-like. Both provide connectedness, but the second also lets you feel productive and valued. Finally, both social and solo activities have at least two classes — some require thinking and others are physical.
The point is, aim for balance — have a mix of social and solo, physical and mental, activities. Not to trivialize things, but variety is truly the spice of life. And besides, doing all types will certainly fill up your day.
So now we can get back to our original point — taking action. Here are the steps that are recommended by the experts. You’ll have a better chance of getting things going if you follow this program:
SET PRIORITIES — Get some paper and a pencil, or however you go about writing things down (I use my computer), and list the pro’s and con’s for each activity. Note that it’s not just the count that matters, but the value of each pro and con. For example, if making money is extremely important, that may be enough to counter all the cons for an endeavor, even if making money is the only benefit.
DO REALITY CHECKS — Sometimes we can get a little grandiose and bite off more than we can fit in our mouths. Make sure the things you a considering require only the amount of energy you want to expend and are truly achievable – over-reaching can lead to failure, which can be demotivating.
Reality checks can also include visualization. Imagine yourself doing a particular activity day in and day out. Are you enthusiastic about doing it today? How about tomorrow, a month from now, a year from now? Try to picture the kind of effort it will require and the problems you might run into along the way. Can you live with that?
MAKE DETAILED PLANS — Here is where things often fall apart. Without a real plan, things go nowhere. Write out the specific steps, in all the detail that’s needed, for achieving each goal. Detailed planning will give you a better idea as to whether what you’d like to do is realistic and achievable. Planning should include doing research so you can get some ideas as to how you can turn your interest into something you actually do. Needless to say, take notes and maybe use them as the basis for a business plan. Once the steps are outlined, create a timeline, putting in the dates when each step will be completed. Timelines are essential because they force you to…
SET UP A ROUTINE — Structure and direction come from setting up schedules and routines. One means of doing so it to keep a calendar and the ever popular “to do” list. In this way you’ll treat your activity like your job: a list outlines the tasks ahead of you and the calendar keeps you focused on a schedule. Each morning should start off with a review of your calendar and list so that you will know what the day ahead holds. If should never be full of nothing, unless you’ve given yourself a day off.
JUST DO IT — Apologies for stealing someone else’s tag, but another crucial aspect of planning and goal-setting is seemingly self-evident but often not done: follow through on the plans you make. Without follow-through, planning is just a waste of time. Never fall too far behind your list or calendar, because the further back you fall, the harder it will be to get back on track.
That’s pretty much the process. However, there are a few pitfalls you might face as you go on this journey, and so are worth mentioning:
This is a trial and error thing, and you are bound to fail at times. Don’t let your failures discourage you, because you can quickly become discouraged. Keep in mind some advice you’ve probably heard before: if you never try and fail, you’ll never learn. Instead, if and when you fail, drop the activity, not the pursuit of new ones.
Along the same lines, manage your expectations. Overly optimistic expectations puts you at risk of being disappointed, which is also demotivating. Try to be patient and remember that things can take time to develop, and you won’t be as good at something that’s new to you today as you will be a year from now. But a year from now you’ll be pretty good at it.
Stay motivated — it’s all too easy to get lazy when there’s no mandatory schedules to follow, no time constraints, no deadlines, nobody demanding something from you. But just as laziness can beget laziness, a forward momentum also tends to feed on itself
Finally, never stop searching and experimenting. After you put together your first list you may think you’re home, but those who stay on a hunt for new activities feel better about themselves. In fact, what’s more important than your specific activities is your motivation to continually look for new experiences — they can make you feel younger, rejuvenated, and productive. And as you do so, keep an open mind. That prevents you from being locked into old patterns and gives you an opportunity to discover interests you didn’t know you had. You just never know what you might find, and find out about yourself. And if that’s not enough for you, accept the fact that we old dogs have no choice but to learn new tricks.