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6 Steps to Accomplish Anything

Photo by TranXuanLoc
Because this business of becoming conscious is ultimately about asking yourself, 'How alive am I willing to be?' ~Anne Lamott

Last year I wrote about a goal-less New Year: Beginning from a place within that allows you to open more in 2013 — to use less fervent goal-seeking willpower and more awareness when placing intentions.

This is a practical piece on how to intentionally move from this place of willingness, once you’re attuned to that inner self.

Eighteen months ago, I couldn’t sit still in meditation for more than a few minutes. I became either anxious and antsy or really sleepy after several minutes of stillness.

Three years ago, I couldn’t imagine life without chicken and fish. My diet was largely comprised of protein, protein, protein — in the form of animals.

Four years ago, I couldn’t run more than 6 miles. Beyond 6 miles felt like the furthest distance.

Five years ago, I was petrified to start my own real estate business. I was comfortable with being an employee, and starting my own business seemed risky.

After practicing meditation daily for the past 18 months, I recently sat for seven consecutive days, eight hours each day, during a silent Zen retreat.

After running daily for five months, I ran 13.1 miles — my first half-marathon — in less than two hours.

After giving up red meat, then chicken, then fish, I became a vegetarian. I’ve been meatless for more than three years and have felt more energetic and healthy than ever.

After spending evenings and weekends with the entrepreneurial gig, alongside my corporate full-time work, Stevenson Realtors made nearly as much as my banking day job.

Each of Us is Capable

I’m not telling you this to boast about these accomplishments, but to share that each of us is capable of accomplishing anything we choose with the discipline of a daily practice.

There is nothing different about me or you — each of us is equipped with the ability to create our reality. The only difference, then, is our conscious choice to partake in our decision.

Success — both personal and professional — manifests from discipline and a habit. With commitment to a repetitive practice, we can master any skill and begin to create an intentional life.

Each of us is already practicing something on a daily basis, we may simply not be aware of it. Maybe it’s practicing checking email habitually or practicing watching TV for several hours or practicing running errands or shopping online or practicing Angry Birds and Scramble with Friends.

Each us has a daily commitment we habitually attend to. How, then, would our lives expand, if we began to consciously choose what we are conditioning ourselves to become?

Here are six steps on how to consciously accomplish anything:

1. Assess Current Habits

What does your day look like now? How are you spending time and energy?

Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect, has a Habit Assessment Worksheet that allows you to plan for healthier habits.

This worksheet allows you to take an inventory of your current habits. It will guide you to create a new daily practice aligned to what it is you are trying to accomplish.

2. Start Small

Pace yourself in incremental steps.

Perhaps you have the desire to lose weight. You don’t have to sign up for a gym membership, pay for a trainer and immediately commit to a strict calorie-counting diet.

You can start small, right where you are: a 15-minute walk each day or begin a 20-minute yoga practice online with YogaGlo daily.

Then, the next week, you can commit to eating dinner by 7 p.m., at the latest. The following week, you can reduce carbs during that 7 p.m. dinner meal.

Start small — stay committed — and allow your practice to organically grow over time.

3. Give Yourself Time 

Our cultural conditioning tells us that we need to do everything with speed and efficiency. We’re programmed to reach for the all-inclusive, quick-fix package. Hence the spike of gym memberships and attendees in January of each year. Then, the usual dissipation of the crowd by mid-February.

We’re not told often enough to take a breath and to let things unfold naturally. We are accustomed to fast! Now! Control! A then a breathless, dizzy rush to the next thing.

I likely would have not accomplished anything, if I had:

  • Expected to sit in meditation for 20 minutes the first time
  • Expected to become vegetarian when I just had a steak yesterday
  • Expected my real estate business to takeoff in one year
  • Expected to run 13 miles in a month

Cultivate a more patient, realistic expectation of time for progress. Often, our accomplishments and unfolding take longer than we might have initially anticipated.

4. Pick an Intentional Reminder

An intentional reminder can be an alert on your phone, a post-it on the bedroom door or an object that you encounter daily. Allow the alert, the paper or object be your daily reminder for this new practice.

Tony Schwartz calls this an “Energy Ritual”. He writes in his article How to Make a Change Last Forever (Harvard Business Review):

“Energy Rituals — highly specific behaviors or regimes that you do at the same time every day (or on the specific days you select). By setting a sacrosanct time for your routine, you don’t have to spend energy thinking about when to get it done.

Willpower is a highly finite and limited resource in each of us, so the goal is to use less of it wherever possible, by making more behaviors in our life automatic.”

 5. Select Support

 Find a partner, a friend, a family member or an online community to support your new conscious habit(s). Find a like-minded soul to share in celebrating the small successes with you.

I am fortunate to have a deeply supportive partner, girlfriends, and TSN (thank you Tina and community!). Their endless encouragement and love often felt like super powers when I was facing challenges.

You don’t have to do anything alone — reach out (here, on TSN is a wonderful place to start) and allow the support of others help you grow.

 6. Start Again

Start over again and again, as needed. Continuously repeat. We don’t learn to ride a bike in a day. We don’t learn to swim the moment we step into a pool. All acts of greatness — large or small — take the discipline of starting again. And creating a conscious habit is no different.

 Repeat, repeat, repeat these steps when you have seemingly fallen off the wagon.

Parting Words

As you begin to think about your current habits and your new practice, you might reflect on the following:

  • Can I be kind to myself as I cultivate a new practice?
  • What will be my conscious practice?
  • Does it align with my deepest intentions?
  • And how alive am I willing to be?

Our entire life is a practice. And that in itself is the achievement.

On occasion, we show up for a moment that may feel like a destination – a half-marathon or a seven-day sit or to bask in a professional success — though, the real prize in this life is our constant commitment to expand and stay consciously awake.

Those external accomplishments are simply a momentous pull for us to stretch and grow as human beings.

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About the author

Cat is a recent corporate escapee, now practicing as a full-time Zen Student. Her home, for the next year or so, is on various meditation cushions in the world.

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2 thoughts on 6 Steps to Accomplish Anything

  1. Rose Costas

    Thank you Cat for a great article. I have been working on myself and really being diligent but one thing I haven’t mastered and you mentioned in your post is that I need to be kind to myself.

    I am not a quitter and I do what I need to do and will persevere but being kind to myself has never crossed my mind. Thanks for that reminder and I will surely be doing that.

    Another great post.

  2. Wonderful article Cat! I’m inspired to get moving. Thanks so much :)

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