I feel it’s time to act but I am not ready. There is still so much more to know, read, research, interview, find out, discuss, explore….ahhhh.
Take action, they say. Just the first step, they say. And then it gets easier.
It's obvious that, whether you want to run your own business, become a designer, run a marathon, learn to drive a car or public speak, you actually need to take a step and do it. Even if you fail, initially, it’s an inevitable part of the process.
I have learnt that only by acting we learn what we really want just as much as we learn what we do not want.
As a lifelong learner I am exploring some of the concepts, which help me take meaningful and deliberate actions now.
Here are two ideas, which dance well together. And like with ying and yang, the presence of one elicits the existence of the other: Simplicity and Focus.
For years I have been a hoarder – of books mainly, and information. I have collected, stored and recorded information, have been hungry for more. I have subscribed to everything and anything that would provide insights and ‘aha’ moments, anything that would make me click, know what I am about, stand for and how I want to show up in the world. But I have never felt ready.
Despite owning my own business for nearly a decade now, I haven’t felt good enough to take the leap forward and simplify until now.
Simplicity may limit our choices. In business like in any relationship, it may seem so much easier to be all things to all people, just in case. But that’s deceptive. In reality, only by doing something well, can we feel truly fulfilled. In business we gain credibility too.
With simplicity comes Clarity.
Speed of Action.
Having too much on means stagnation, clutter and noise mainly in my head. Don’t get me wrong, collecting information, knowledge, stories, clothes or anything we feel may one day be useful or make us feel safe, have its place on our path. It seems we all need to go through that process for whatever reason. De-cluttering is very cathartic though.
How to simplify?
1. Know your why.
Know what’s the most important to you and stick with it. Be honest with yourself and distinguish between what looks good on paper and what actually is the truth about your values or your true goals. Resist the temptation to follow the trend. Don’t just do what’s acceptable or what makes you feel accepted. Dare to differ. Do your thing. Slowly. With time you will gain confidence in trusting yourself.
2. Weigh everything against your why.
Any decision you are to make, any project you are considering or a new engagement, get in the habit of asking yourself: How does this fit in with my goals? How does this get me closer to living the life I want? As I always say: in order to say ‘yes’ to something important, we first need to say ‘no’ to something else. Determine your ‘no’s’.
Those two steps are the good starting point but then the second idea makes simplifying easier, too:
Blinkers On – Focus
Many years ago I went to see an astrologer who told me that I needed to learn to focus and for that I had to, as she called it, ‘put blinkers on’ or otherwise I would continue being scattered around in my thoughts and ideas.
I had also been told before that I spend a lot of the time in my head. I used to take it as a complement. Not any more. I now know that to make any decision, it’s my heart, the inner feeling I get, intuition, more than the head - thinking and analysing, that is of help. In fact science now talks about multiple brains in our bodies including our heart, gut and the head (check out MBraining for more info).
The creative in me rarely allowed me to rest or focus for longer stretches of time. That’s probably why mindfulness has become such an important part of my journey. Not only has it allowed me to focus on a task, but focus on what’s important in life, in a conversation, in a relationship and eliminate the clutter, noise and disturbance.
For clarity we need stillness and that’s the opposite of over-analysing.
How to focus?
1. Connect with yourself.
Whether it is mindfulness, meditation, yoga, connection with nature or any other practice, which allows you to feel sensations in your body or breath deliberately - all of these practices help exponentially in refocusing our attention. Our thoughts have the capacity to overtake being in the reality we are in, the present moment, and influence how we see it.
Mindfulness is not something we can do constantly. We can remember to remind ourselves of the present over and over again though, and by bringing our attention back, can we learn to focus.
Those practices also allow us to recognise whether what we react to, is the reality or is just in our heads.
2. Practice focusing for periods of time.
Experts say that multitasking is a myth. We cannot simultaneously perform two tasks well. We should instead work on one task or one project in stretches of 90 to 120 minutes and then take deliberate breaks, when we remove ourselves into a completely different space. Nutrition, fresh air and exercise are essential for that too.
By deliberately focusing on one task we become better at it and our effectiveness and productivity improves too.
3. Set goals.
Being organised and knowing what lies ahead helps in bringing attention back on track. If you plan for activities and schedule tasks to achieve your goals for example a new website development, organising the details of an overseas trip, learning a new language, training for a marathon, house hunting – undertaking regular, consistent action in the direction of those goals prevents being side-tracked. Opportunities present themselves all the time, challenges occur too, but neither should permanently block us if a) we know clearly where we are going and b) plan and schedule specific actions to get there.
4. Identify and plan for your cheat activities.
We all need a bit of leeway especially when trying to create a new structure in life. Make a deliberate beforehand decision about what is going to be your cheat activity.
Whether it’s less treats, alcohol, TV or social media you want in your life, decide on time or day in the week when you are going to let yourself of the hook and treat yourself. Having that system helps initially to continue on implementing the new way. It also allows to eliminate temptations by reminding yourself why you do it. With time it gets easier and you feel more inspired to keep going.
There are numerous benefits of simplifying your life and being more focused. Read more about them here.