On turning inspiration into action

Let’s say you read an interesting article. The title is catchy, the content is actionable, and it contains examples you could relate to. It helps you with a new perspective, a new idea. As you read that gripping article, your pupils dilate. You feel inspired and believe this is something you want to do.

Once you’re done, you share it with your friends and on social media. You’re also wondering how extraordinary your life would be if you executed that idea. A few minutes later, you get a call from your friend, and the two of you have lots to catch up on. You’re distracted. The inspiring article resides in your short-term memory and gets decayed, leaving space for other things you consume.

Relatable?

I’ve experienced this a lot of times.

Not acting on my ‘inspirational triggers’ makes me angry and disappointed. When I tried to understand why this was happening, here’s what I discovered:

  • When we’re excited, we tend to process information faster, but our ability to restore it is limited.
  • As we consume new information, some tend to imagine the future parallelly. Therefore, our ability to focus and decide on the next steps stagnates.

Whenever we can relate to a problem or an idea, we become engrossed in that thought. We reach a state of emotional excitement because that idea can help us get better. It’s beautiful but momentary, especially when we mindlessly jump to the next exciting item. Hence, the idea we just savoured will die a slow death because we didn’t care enough to nurture it in the first place.

So, what’s the best way to turn this unproductive impulse into something meaningful?

Planning.

Sounds simple, right?

When we experience inspirational triggers to do something, it’s always best to ask ourselves what outcome we expect and how we can get started with it. And it’s best to write it down. Be it on a note-taking app or notebook.

We can break down the tasks related to the idea into foundational and core.

For example, if you’re inspired to start working out consistently, the foundational tasks will include things like,

  • Understanding your biggest motivation to start working out and seeing if it’s a momentary trigger or a strong desire
  • Reviewing your current lifestyle – eating habits, the time you wake up and go to bed, work time, etc.
  • Figuring out the habit patterns you want to minimize or start incorporating

And the core tasks will be around finalizing the workout routine and schedule. 

Taking baby steps to be consistent with the foundational tasks and slowly moving to the core ones can help us progress. And this template holds true for any idea.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain

I use Any.do, not because it’s the best to-do app I’ve ever used, but simply because I’ve promised myself to stop trying different to-do apps and just stick to one that can help get the job done. I’ve created a separate category to keep track of tasks related to my inspirational triggers (called desires), and it’s a great way to remind myself about it time-to-time. Like this.

So, the next time you read or watch something that inspires you to take action, go to your to-do app or notebook and write down how you want to go about executing it. Once you’ve clearly explained to yourself the next actionable steps, you will eventually get it done someday.

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