Goal setting is unarguably an excellent skill to have under your belt. It comes in handy in terms of professional purposes, personal affairs and, frankly, any other category of life we can think of. Yet, I’ve observed a lack of resources offering a simple how-to method for bringing your grand visions to fruition. That is precisely why I want to fill in that missing spot by introducing you to Action Steps! Intrigued? Then let’s begin!
What Are Action Steps?
Action Steps clarify your purpose and introduce structure into your dreamy visions, keeping you organised and in check. They are vital to accomplishing your goal, breaking it down into small, attainable tasks. It’s all about mapping out the directions that, when followed correctly, over time, get us from point A, the vision, to point B, achieving it.
In this way, you can feel in charge of your life. Action Steps are like a lighthouse, guiding you day and night in the right direction. Instead of cluelessly running around in the fog, you can access mental clarity through this technique, for which your future self will thank you. I bet your present self could also feel grateful for having a logical path to follow that saves time, energy and other resources.
Most of all, action steps are like milestones. When completed, they bring a sense of accomplishment that motivates us to keep moving forward toward the end goal. By creating the step-by-step process, we can track our progress and transform these intimidating grand ideas into a more familiar, accessible form.
Usually, an Action Step is a single task you can get done throughout a day or a week. Its purpose is to make sure we don’t go off the rails. Remember, though, that fulfilling just one of these baby steps will not magically realise your goal.
Embracing The Goal-Setting Process
Existing in a goal-oriented society, constantly surrounded by coworkers, family members, close friends, social media influencers, entrepreneurs, journalists on the TV, and other experts telling us how to achieve happiness and suggest new goals for us every day takes its toll on our decisions and behaviours. We’ve probably all made some choices, more or less significant, subliminally influenced by the external environment, that potentially can become a burning issue.
Let’s take a typical example…
Imagine a son who studies medicine because his parents are doctors, and they always dreamt of having a family practice. His goal has been set for him before he had a chance to think about it on his own. Therefore, this young man dedicated years of his lives carving a career path, sacrificing time, energy, money, and so much more only to wake up one day and realise in despair that this life is far from what he truly wants, dreams of or believes in. It’s like seeing the world clearly for the first time.
In order to prevent that unpleasant situation from happening, it’s imperative for us to become creators of our reality. If you become complacent and stop setting goals for yourself, then you can be sure that someone else will do that for you. That is why the goals we choose to achieve need to be intrinsically motivated and aligned with our core values.
Become The Artist of Your Own Life
Once our vision has been determined, we need to orient ourselves towards the process. We need to become the artist who loves the process of becoming, the process of creation, and the beauty of the journey. The person who takes satisfaction from the daily struggle and delight in the slow progress.
To embody such an attitude, one has to develop a process that will feel gratifying. For that, we need structure and an understanding that arriving at the destination of your journey takes time. A lot of it. There is no way around it. No shortcut. No trick.
So why not treat your dream goal as a piece of art?
Let’s take a look at sculptors. They don’t buy blocks of clay, stone, wood etc. and expect it to become the most breathtaking sculpture overnight. Instead, the artists work on it, day after day, sometimes cutting big chunks out, other times chipping little pieces, gradually carving their way to the final art form. Sometimes it can feel tiring or underwhelming, but that is just the universal nature of dedicating to any meaningful process.
The beautiful thing is that each of those steps is a part of a bigger whole. Separately, they don’t make a big impression. Together, however, they create a sense of synergy, producing “a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects“. So, just like a sculptor would first prepare a draft or a mock-up for their work and have the whole process mapped out rather than simply carve the stone on the whim, you too can benefit significantly from choosing to set some time aside to create a solid plan – your Action Steps. Following them, day after day, week after week, will eventually bring you closer to your dreams.
The Struggle of Following Action Steps
Even though it all makes a fair amount of sense, that’s too often not the reality for a whopping majority of ambitious, inspired and motivated individuals yearning to achieve their dream life. Being aware of your final destination can simultaneously feel exhilarating AND confusing. Millions of questions and different ideas can pop up in your mind, tangled up in knots, fuelled by both adrenaline and anxiety, making no sense at all.
When we excitedly jump into action hot-headed, with no structure or framework, there’s a high risk of things getting out of hand. Fast. Instead of following a plan, we’re grasping at straws, going in circles, wasting time and energy on actions that are primarily incoherent, disorderly and chaotic. That is, my friends, a slippery slope leading straight to a disaster, namely us giving up on our goal and denouncing it as impossible to carry out.
Rather than letting it happen, I invite you to…
Set Action Steps For Your Goal
STEP 1: Contemplate on the Purpose of Your Goal
- Determine your “why”.
- Understand the origin of your goal, make sure that the person who wants it the most is YOU, not anyone else.
- Clarify the purpose that will propel you forward and ramp up your willingness to persevere and stick to your goal, even in the most challenging times.
“(it) will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to
when things get hard (and they inevitably will)”– John Hall
STEP 2: Break It Down into Action Steps:
- Take your time to reflect on, consider and act on these factors:
- an extensive description of the end goal rather than a vague idea of it,
- setting deadlines & milestones throughout the process,
- having a measure to track your progress,
- resources required to accomplish each of the steps.
“It is possible to attain your realistic goals by following one simple rule:
always break your goals down into manageable, achievable action steps.”– Danna Markson
- Most importantly, remember about the primary aim of action steps – they should be simple and achievable in a limited amount of time. They’re here to move you towards your goal, not drive you away from it. Make sure you don’t feel intimidated by these tasks but instead encouraged and excited about them. Maybe introduce an appealing element of your action steps, such as a reward for fulfilling them.
STEP 3: Check off your Action Steps when completed
- In case you didn’t notice, some of the benefits of having a to-do list are:
- added structure
- a sense of urgency
- a way to keep you organised and focused on priorities
- An additional fun fact is that we can hack our brains with to-do lists. When checking a completed task off the list, the human brain releases dopamine, making us feel good. That, in turn, motivates us to repeat the pleasant feeling, preferably often. Therefore, we get our job done, we’re more productive, and we feel a slight sense of accomplishment with each completed step!
STEP 4: Schedule Frequent Reviews
- They can be weekly, biweekly or monthly – whatever suits your preference. The point is to keep track of your progress.
- The journey of attaining a big goal is long and filled with setbacks. It’s only natural for the initial situation to evolve and the circumstances to change. In this case scenario, it’s best to stay realistic, act fast and adjust your expectations accordingly to prevent a misfortunate event from happening.
- Develop a habit of frequently scheduling reviews your goal, tweaking the details of action steps where necessary and moving on.
“In our minds, we feel like our action steps are clear and concrete.
Saying them out loud often reveals their weaknesses.
Don’t hesitate to explore the meaning or definition or how-to of an action step until it is clear and feels doable.”– Dr Keith E. Webb
I’m no expert on goal setting, and I won’t even claim such a title today or any day soon. However, what I understood thanks to the Action Steps is that spending extra time planning big and exciting goals NOW will ensure enjoying them later. It’s yet another Marshmallow Test if you come to think about it.
Either you jump into action now, and you expect to see the immediate results, or you are willing to delay the gratification, wait a moment, put in the extra work, find mental clarity, make your goal tangible, map out the whole process, make steady progress and… collect your prize.
Try setting Action Steps for yourself, and don’t hesitate to update us on your journey in the Dwen-Day community group on Facebook!