Getting Ready for Action
Action is a pretty simple concept:
“The process of doing something”
The actual doing part, of the process of doing something, is often the easiest bit. The challenge lies in preparing ourselves to begin the doing part of the process; in getting ready for action.
Much like triggering a line of dominos to fall; after you have found the start of the line and flicked the first one, doing is underway; momentum is gathered creating a feedback loop that helps you drive to completion.
For a lot of people, doing some exercise is a challenge. Let’s take going to the gym as an example; once you are at the gym, doing the workout is easy, the challenge is getting to the gym in the first place.
Sure, people will face challenges when doing the doing. Being frank, worry about that when you get there; that challenge is in the future and will only become real if you manage to clear and biggest hurdle. Actually starting.
The Swim to the Start Line
I was going to describe this part of the process as a ladder, but the problem with a ladder is that it represents a liner sequence of events. Life is just not that simple. The reality is that everything relates to everything. Much like swimming, we must exert our force on several molecules of water at the same time to move forwards.
The good thing though, is that in this analogy of swimming to the start line, the start line is actually on dry land. At the end of the swim, we arrive at the point of making a decision, the decision to start the doing. Either we are in the water or out; once we have decided to get out, the doing can begin.
In my earlier post a simple tip for tranquillity, I described the human mind as a lake. It is that very lake that we need to swim across to arrive at the shore of decision.
We swim by using the following set of life skills:
- Curiosity – Wanting to know more
- Honesty – Telling the truth
- Acceptance – Letting go of mental resistance to the truth
- Awareness – Knowing that something exists
- Mindfulness – Focusing on the present moment
Let’s now dive (canned laughter) in to each of these skills in a bit more detail.
Luckily humans are hard wired to be curious. It is what enables a young child to learn. They may fall over but they get back up and carry on.
As we grow to be adults, curiosity is a skill that we unlearn. We unlearn it because curiosity gives us awareness of the truth, and the truth can hurt when you have not heard it in a while.
Learning to ask “but why?” will help you rekindle your curiosity. Next you need to practice honesty.
Honesty is super simple. Just tell yourself the truth.
The problem is though, once you have fabricated a lie, all it takes is a few lies and the layers of bullshit that telling the truth will cut, can become very significant. The pain of cutting through all of that bullshit, especially if it is part of how you define yourself, can be daunting.
Being honest with yourself gets easier the more you do it. Start small and strip back the bullshit to expose the real you.
Here is the truth about honesty: You can only stop feeding other people shit sandwiches when you stop feeding them to yourself!
The practices of mindfulness and acceptance are skills that support finding and integrating the truth.
Acceptance of the truth provides a firm foundation for growth.
Once you are able to find the truth, the next and most important step is to learn to accept it. Acceptance in the context of action is all about accepting what you cannot change. You cannot change the past, but you can influence the future. Accepting that it is your choices and actions (including choices about how you feel) that have led to your current life situation.
When we are honest with ourselves and about the choices that we have made; we can learn to accept our life situation as being of our own making. This means dropping a victim mindset where we point to external factors that are outside of our control as being a reason or an excuse for our situation.
Learning to accept and as such drop mental resistance to what we cannot change, allows us to refocus our energy on to finding what we can change; focus on what choices we can make.
When we are able to accept that a choice is ours to make, this means that we also accept responsibility for making a decision. When we accept responsibility, we can channel our vitality in to moving forwards.
Being aware of something means that you actively perceive its existence.
As we discussed in the tip for tranquillity post, human perception can be our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. Learning to be aware of the human tendency to subconsciously shape our own perception with polluting thoughts of the past and the future, goes a long way in helping us to achieve the clarity and focus needed for action.
The skill of awareness is not constrained to our perception of time though; to master this skill we need to develop awareness of our own personality traits, the eb and flow of our emotions, what our core values are, how we respond to stress, what we like to do to relax, what our beliefs about ourselves are… the list is endless.
Curiosity when reciprocated with honesty creates awareness and opens the doorway to acceptance. Acceptance is the foundation of action; think of it like the force that holds all of the water molecules in the lake together, if that force did not exist, we would not be able to apply the force of our vitality against the water to create forward motion. It would be like trying to swim through air.
Once we accept what is, we become curious about the choices that are within our control. When we accept that a choice is ours to make, we accept our responsibility to make a decision. We have arrived at the shore.
Mindfulness is on trend in the western world today. It is not a new concept though and has been practiced for thousands of years in eastern cultures.
The concept is simple. Bring your attention and focus to the present moment.
The essence of mindfulness practice is connecting with our bodies using our breath. This is because the process of breathing occurs using our physical bodies which only exist in the present moment.
When our conscious focus moves to the present, we are able to take an objective viewpoint on the noise created by the rest of our mind. The part of our mind that we call the ego.
When we are able to shine the light of curiosity in to the rest of our mind, become aware of the truth and can practice acceptance.
To arrive at the shore of decision, you must first focus solely on swimming. Mindfulness enables you to do this and so is the gateway to developing the other skills.
Core Life Skills
These five skills are core life skills. They are universal in their application and once mastered will allow any human to discover and achieve their full potential.
Awareness of their existence is the first step up the mountain pathway. They are simple but not simplistic, the more you know the more you will realise that you know nothing.
I have been developing my skill in these areas for years and I am still just a novice. There are still times when I catch myself worrying about the past or the future, procrastinating and putting off. What I can say though is that it happens much less today than it did when I first decided to start develop these skills. Progress is progress no matter how small.
All of these skills aside, the question still remains as to why should we even bother to take action in the first place?
Fuel for Action
Humans are biologically programmed to take action when we are alive. The condition of being alive is met when we have vitality. Vitality is what we call life energy when it is channelled through a physical body. Humans can sense our own vitality, learning to cultivate it and use it.
The practices of yoga and qi gong are routed in eastern philosophy and refer to the concept of life energy as Prana or Qi respectively. Using mindful movement and meditation, the practices are designed to help students learn to feel, increase, and direct their vitality to positive effect.
Vitality is like fuel in the tank. The more you have, the further you can go.
Learning to get in touch with your vitality and discovering how to increase it is like adding a turbo charger to your engine. Combine this with the development of the other core life skills and you have a guaranteed recipe for success.
Some food for thought.
Enjoy for now. x