Don’t wait. The time will never be just right. – Napoleon Hill
Nothing happens without action. If you’re sitting on your butt thinking about something you want to do, then you are not doing it. We are foiled by thoughts that what we want to accomplish, from cleaning out the garage to writing a book to getting a new job is such a gigantic undertaking that we don’t know where to start. So we don’t start. The truth is everything we want to do can be broken down into small steps. Chinese Taoist Philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.”
I am a recovering procrastinator. Until a few years ago, my motto was, “Always put off until tomorrow what you don’t want to do today.” It was something I learned in high school. I kept delaying to the very last minute things like writing term papers, studying for essay tests and constructing science projects. I still got by with a B average and that felt like a reward for procrastinating.
My childhood habit of dodging things I didn’t want to do continued into my adult life. I paid my bills a little late. I left the breakfast dishes in the sink. Vacuuming was something I only did when company was coming. Unless there was a hard deadline for a work project, I would put off as much as I could for as long as I could.
It took about 10 business seminars to snap me out of my debilitating procrastination mode. I remember having a big “aha moment” in a seminar called “Choices” about facing my fears and taking small steps to do some things I wanted to do, like increasing my income and spending more quality time with my family. I could see procrastination was a choice, and by making that choice, I was sabotaging myself. I began to do little things that could contribute to achieving my big goals. I posted W. H. Murray’s excerpt about “Commitment” from “The Scottish Himalayan Expedition” on my refrigerator:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
Looking at that Commitment piece every day on the fridge pushed me to clean a horribly messy den, purge all my closets and find time to take a walk. These were important demonstrations of my new-found commitment to action. Procrastination became the enemy of my personal integrity. Suddenly I started feeling good about doing today what I could easily have put off till tomorrow. That’s when I knew I had broken the procrastination habit. It still rears its ugly head from time to time, mostly when I am overwhelmed with tasks and deadlines. That’s when I write everything down and decide the order in which I will do each one. And then I take action.
Like many of you in our Vibrant Nation community, I’ve been watching the Olympics on TV the past few days. Watching the swimming competition last night, I was reminded of Becky, a wonderful friend and former co-worker in Colorado. During a lunch break one day shortly after she joined our company, Becky shared with a couple of us how challenging it had been to raise a daughter who suffered from serious debilitating asthma. The pediatrician suggested swimming might have a positive effect on Becky’s little girl. If swimming would help, then Becky, who also had two other children, was determined to find the time to take the action and be at the community pool every day. By high school, Becky’s daughter was better and had begun swimming competitively in spite of the jeers of other swimmers who thought she was too slow. Becky was proud of her own personal choice to spend most of her life at a pool or driving to a swim meet. The reward for this remarkable mom and family caregiver finally came in 1996. Becky and her husband, Don, stood beside a pool in Atlanta, not once but four times, as the American flag was raised and our National Anthem played in honor of their beautiful daughter’s Olympic gold medal efforts. Amy Van Dyken was the most successful athlete at the 1996 Summer Olympics. All of us who worked with Becky cheered and cried when Amy went on to win two more medals four years later at the games in Sydney, with her mom once again standing by the pool.
Thinking about the importance of action on the journey to care that I wrote about in my book, “The Heart Way,” and how the Van Dyken family demonstrated such action made me recall something Oprah said: “My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” I would add that doing your best to care for yourself at this moment puts you in a great place to care for your family or friends when they need you.
Please join this conversation and share an experience of taking action toward a positive outcome large or small. You’ll be surprised how your stories will motivate others too!
Next and final footprint: Love