In a recent article I discussed why I feel the major reason people have so much trouble going from dreaming and talking to actually taking action and living those dreams. I believe that the major reason that there are so many dreamers and so few doers is that dreaming and doing are completely different activities. As a result, fantasizing about enjoying success is fun and enjoyable but actually taking action tends to be considerably less exciting.
The discrepancy in enjoyment, the fact that you enjoy thinking about living your dream far more than taking the action necessary to fulfill it has to be one of the major reasons it is so hard to create change. If you take a look at really successful people, however, they have all found ways to really enjoy taking the action that creates their success. For these people, passion and drive doesn’t just come from vision but taking action towards those dreams fuels them.
What happens if you currently don’t enjoy taking the action you need to take to fulfill your dream? Of course you could rely on self-discipline and try to will yourself to take action. Has that worked for you in the past? For most people I have found that the internal energy and reserves to sustain willpower are far less than is necessary to get you to your dreams. Besides, why struggle and drag yourself to your goals when you can take a much smoother path.
I’d like to spend some time exploring some ways you can take boring or even unpleasant activities necessary to reach your goals and make them enjoyable or even fun, so that you will want to do them. By modifying the activity, using rewards or associating the activity to a positive emotion taking action becomes fun. Sometimes the correct choice may be to change your goal entirely, rather than try to swallow activities you derive no enjoyment from and I want to discuss that as well.
Modify the Activity
The first and easiest way to make taking action more fun is simply to modify the activity so it becomes more enjoyable. Few activities are so rigid in their execution that they cannot be made more fun. By changing the way you do the activity, you can enjoy a fairly boring or mundane task.
A great example of modifying the activity to make it more fun is to listen to music when exercising. Often simply adding some music when exercising can move the activity from boring or even unpleasant to fun. Music is a small example, but like a seasoning many people add it to many activities to make them more palatable. I had a dentist appointment earlier and I listened to music on my player to make the visit more enjoyable.
Other times you can modify the activity by changing the context or type of activity you do. If your goal is to lose weight, choosing a form of exercise you enjoy can make the process much easier than if you just went running by yourself. There are many times when the path to success with your goal can go through many different routes. Choosing those routes that are the most enjoyable can often be a simple way to modify the activity and improve your success.
Sometimes the key isn’t to modify the activity but to modify your perception of it. Our perceptions of things have an incredibly important impact on our experience of them. If you think going skydiving is going to be terrifying and painful then you would notice that before a jump. If you think skydiving is going to be the thrill of a lifetime then you will notice that too. Grabbing references that promote how an activity is actually going to be fun and not painful can radically alter your perception.
Most of us have heard of Pavlov’s famous experiments about conditioning. These experiments involved dogs who were conditioned to hear a bell before they were fed. Later the dogs would begin to salivate after hearing the bell even when no food was given. This illustrates an important psychological concept of reward and punishment. If you reward yourself, your body begins to prepare for it in advance of the actual reward.
Using this principle, one way to make taking action more enjoyable is to simply reward yourself regularly for taking action. Let’s say you are trying to get a new project underway but you keep procrastinating. One way to stop procrastinating and get working might be to determine a reward for yourself after working for an hour or two. By doing this you begin to associate the action with reward and the activity becomes more enjoyable. After using this approach for awhile you may find it easy to do the activity even without the reward.
Rewarding yourself is especially crucial in the early stages of your goal. Coming up with rewards after an hour or day of work may seem unnecessary, but these steps help build a positive momentum that can sustain you throughout your goal. It is never a bad idea to attach a reward to doing what you need to do.
Associate the Action
One final method to enjoy taking action is to associate that action to a preexisting positive feeling. Your brain works in a marvelous way creating connections and associations between fun and drudgery, images and sound. These associations are crucial in determining whether you will procrastinate or whether you will take action.
If you want to start a new diet, you need to associate that diet with enjoyment and pleasurable emotions, not painful ones. You could use the previous approaches by finding and preparing delicious foods (modifying the activity) or you could allow yourself to go see friends or play a game after lasting a day on your diet (rewarding yourself). A third alternative is simply to associate your diet with a positive emotion you already have. You could do this by listening to your favorite music or spending time with your best friends while you eat the food, creating an association between those two events can make the activity more enjoyable.
Change Your Goal
There are many ways to make taking action more enjoyable, but there are some times when they are simply not enough. If you are having to be constantly changing your perception of events to make them more enjoyable just to take the basic action to move you forward, it may be difficult to sustain this. In some cases you may have to find a different goal or wait until you can find a completely different method because you cannot enjoy taking the action.
The question you have to ask yourself is how compelling is your goal? If your goal absolutely compels and drives you then it is best to stick with it. If you are following your goal because you feel you should, or it is only somewhat interesting and intriguing, then you simply don’t have enough motivation to overcome the obstacles necessary.
Your ideal path should be to pick a goal that absolutely compels you and you love taking the action necessary to reach that goal. Those are the goals with an eminent bearing. Either modifying your goal or modifying the action can allow you to improve the drive and passion you feel towards it.
Taking action is necessary to achieve most goals. Learning to enjoy the action you need to take can make it far easier to overcome procrastination and the obstacles that would come in your way. Changing the activity, rewarding your progress and associating that action with other enjoyable activities can do that. In other cases the answer might be to change your goal entirely. Enjoy taking action and you can enjoy your life.