Small, Decisive, Consistent Action

Following from two of my previous posts, one on consistent action yielding incremental progress, the other on decisive commitment, I want to speak in more detail about what such action will look like. What are some concrete examples of the type of actions that will lead in time to the creation of your dream life?

Most likely, the behaviors are smaller than we might assume. They have been in my life anyway.

As I have mentioned in other posts, my tendency has been toward all or nothing engagement with my pursuits. Quite often, this approach has undermined me.

All or nothing more often tends to be nothing than all.

Think about it logically.

Since it is literally impossible for us to devote ourselves completely to more than one endeavor, with the all or nothing mentality, we cannot possibly pursue more than one goal at a time.

To be sure, we always will have pursuits and facets of our life that we prioritize ahead of others. But if we leave no room for additional aspects of our life to develop because we are focusing exclusively on one with all of our energy, we will we shut ourselves off from the richness and opportunities that accompany a diverse set of experiences. It is even possible that a narrow, closed-minded attitude will limit our progress in the one area upon which we have been focusing so intensely.

Again, I’m not stating that we should dabble indefinitely, withhold our energy from a pursuit about which we are passionate, or spread ourselves so thin that we accomplish nothing in any area of interest. But I have experienced time and again the failure resulting from burnout and unrealistically short time lines for my goals.

Which brings me back to the focus of this post; small, consistent, decisive actions.

When we allow ourselves the gift of a well chosen set of consciously selected endeavors, we automatically acknowledge that our larger goals probably will come to fruition over a longer time frame than we might hope. When we recognize and accept that reality, we are far more likely to sustain our effort for the necessary duration.

And when that happens, we empower ourselves to enact a plan that comes together piece by piece by piece.

The example of fitness is an excellent one from my own life. Especially as my time became increasingly fragmented in adulthood, it became more difficult to implement a workout regimen by jumping into high intensity exercise without building up to that level of intensity.

In fact, the aches and pains that most of us experience in adulthood often have their origins in some injury or accumulated damage sustained by implementing routines and performing exercises incorrectly at a younger age.

For me, running is the best example of what I’ve experienced in my own life that fits perfectly with the larger concept I’m trying to convey here.

To be clear, I fucking hate running. I enjoy sprinting. Long distance running though? Not at all my thing. The shock to the joints, the pounding, the shin splints. No thank you.

But the fact is, there are few exercises that burn fat as well. And I had goals for my fitness level that include a body mass index of below ten percent body fat. Indeed there are other forms of exercise, such as swimming and cross country skiing, that provide equivalent or greater fat burning potential. Additionally, weight training has the potential to burn far more fat than static state cardio (such as forty-five minutes on a treadmill).

But running is far more accessible and convenient than swimming or skiing. And resistance training, while excellent for strength and muscle building, is not as effective for cardiovascular conditioning, which is essential for true fitness. So running is something that I needed to do.

In beginning to run, I discovered that some of the stabilizing muscles and tendons in my lower legs were getting sore and even sprained quite easily. So in order to run more, which I needed to do in order to reach my body fat goals, I needed to strengthen and condition those areas.

Clearly, this is not a situation where I simply could push myself harder. I tried that. The result was a lingering sprain or strain in my left ankle/lower leg that rendered me unable to do any jumping or running on and off for the better part of nine months. In fact, the roots of that injury dated back to a previous attempt to push myself beyond my fitness level at the time.

So I needed to heal. I needed to find an exercise that I liked. I needed it to be relatively convenient and accessible. And I needed to increase the duration, intensity, and frequency gradually.

Enter the jump rope. Now this is an exercise mode that I do enjoy. But when I began jumping rope for the first time as a serious exercise, already in my mid-forties, I had little to no endurance. Again, pushing through pain (as opposed to discomfort) would have been a recipe for further setbacks.

So with no other choice, I had to humble myself by doing far less than my ego would have liked to accept. I found that two to three days per week, a few sets of low reps, regular stretching, and a short run once per week were a good starting point.

The most important aspect of starting small was that I had nearly completely removed any psychological resistance against adhering to my routine. It never required too much inertia to go into the garage, put on some high energy music, and do my short workout. Plus, since it was short, attainable, and not too frequent to begin with, I could push myself that much harder, knowing I was nearly finished, and that I would have earned a stretch or rest the following day.

Thanks to my fitness level being relatively low (based on past fitness levels and my current goals) I saw results very quickly. Within a few weeks, I had increased the number of reps per set.

On one foot rope jumps, for example, I could barely do twenty-five on my left foot when I began, including stops caused by the rope getting caught in my feet. Within two weeks, I was up to seventy-five jumps per foot non-stop, and another twenty-five reps of a set where I alternated single foot jumps (right, left, 1, right, left, 2, etc.)

My standard jumps (with feet together) went from one difficult set of one hundred to two much easier sets of two hundred in about two weeks as well. And not only was I preparing myself for increased running endurance, I was burning fat while I prepared.

One final benefit of the incremental approach was the psychological flexibility that I felt as a result. As opposed to prior situations, in which the intensity, duration, frequency, and expectations were high from the start, this approach allowed me to miss a day if necessary without feeling as though I had fallen off of the bandwagon and needed to start all over from the beginning.

I even found that during times when I may not have maintained proper nutrition or gotten enough sleep over a period of several days, I was able to discern between low motivation and a genuine lack of energy. In those times, I could grant myself additional rest without shaming myself. I recognized that it is better to rest when truly necessary than push too much and risk completely depleting my energy and/or risking an injury that might delay my progress.

This, of course, is merely one example of how decisiveness, consistency, and the accumulation of smaller actions will yield dramatic, long term results. Whatever the endeavor, there will be challenges to overcome in multiple areas.

We may need to learn new skills, dust off old ones, risk embarrassment, overcome physical challenges, exorcise psycho-spiritual demons, make bold predictions, face failure, ask for help, etc. But if we acknowledge whatever task we may be facing us in that moment as the very one that needs to be completed in order to take another step toward realizing our larger vision, bit by bit we will get it done.

And far more important than the external rewards that we may reap, is the person we become in the process. That person is one who lives a life of fulfillment by acting in accordance with his or her divine purpose. Living that divine purpose means serving the universe.

What actions can you take right now to begin living in integrity with your divine purpose?

Please feel free to reach out to me if there is any way that I may assist you.

At your service.

Jon

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