In a recent post I revealed my "biggest secret" of effectiveness:
Energy to take effective, powerful action comes when love touches the part of you that has given up.
Put another way, if you want to take effective action, you have to make sure that you aren't taking that action from a place of upset or discouragement.
Because if you act while you are upset or discouraged, you are likely to create more of a mess than you are to create anything else.
If you are upset or discouraged, you must deal with your emotions first, before you act.
But that's hard, because, as human beings, we usually don't want to deal with our emotions. We just want to Get Things Done.
To the parts of us that want to Get Things Done, our emotions are problems to be overcome, not parts of ourselves to bring love to.
But as we explored previously, if you want to take truly effective action, your emotions have to line up with your intentions. And that means you sometimes have to take the time to care for your emotions before you take action.
Here's how you get your emotions to line up with your intentions so you can take effective action that feels like it flows from you.
Step 1: Get clear on the action you want to take
The point of emotional work isn't to wallow in your emotions, crying on the floor or raging and screaming. The point of emotional work is to be able to happily and easily take effective action toward creating the life that you long for.
To that end, your first step is getting clear about your answer to the question, "What action do I want to take?"
TWO TYPES OF ACTION
There are two types of action: additive action and removal action.
An additive action is a new action you want to add to your life:
- "I want to do meal planning for the next seven days, go grocery shopping, and prepare healthy food for myself."
- "I want to take a 30-minute walk every day."
- "I want to spend ten minutes a day looking on the internet for a weight-loss plan that seems like a fit for me."
A removal action is something you want to stop doing:
- "I want to stop eating all refined sugar for the next seven days."
- "I want to stop drinking a Starbucks Frappuccino every day for the next week."
- "I want to stop drinking all alcohol for the next seven days."
Or, of course, your intention might not be food- or health-related:
- "I want to do 20-minute 'work sprints' in which I refuse to get distracted by the internet or phone calls."
- "I want to be more patient with my children."
- "I want to take some time to set up a special experience for my spouse."
...or whatever it is for you.
NOTE: I have created an interactive web form—an online "Intention to action toolkit"—to walk you through this process. You can grab your toolkit by clicking here. It's absolutely free. You can download it now, or at the end of this article.
Step 2: Uncover the circumstance that discourages you from taking action
Your job is to answer: "What circumstance in my life seems like it keeps me from being able to take that action in a relaxed, effective, wholehearted way?"
If I were to say to you, "Okay, go ahead and implement that new action," you might say, “I’d do that, Dmitri, except for ___________."
"I would stop eating refined sugar for the next seven days [intended action], except for I really feel like I rely on sugar to help me handle the difficulties of my day [discouraging circumstance]."
"I would stop drinking a Frappuccino every day [intended action], except for I'm always too tired to do all my work without a boost of caffeine and sugar [discouraging circumstance]."
"I would create a meal plan and food shop for the next seven days [intended action], except for I have so little time to myself the way it is, I don't know where I'd find the time [discouraging circumstance]."
"I would be more patient with my children [intended action], except for there are things I really have to get done and they are constantly interrupting me [discouraging circumstance]."
"I would take a half-hour walk every day [intended action], except for by the time I get half a block I'm already huffing and puffing and it's not at all enjoyable [discouraging circumstance]."
Step 3: Acknowledge the heartbreaking way of acting you accept because of that circumstance
Because of those discouraging circumstances, you start to accept that you have to act in a way other than the way you intend to act.
I say this way of acting is "heartbreaking" because it is heartbreaking to accept that you have no choice but to act in a way that is the opposite of the wholesome, self-affirming way in which you intend to act.
If you want to change how you automatically behave, you must discover the heartbreaking way of acting that you accept that you are stuck with.
Let's continue with our examples:
"I want to stop eating sugar for the next seven days [intended action]. But because I really feel like I rely on sugar to help me handle the difficulties of my day [discouraging circumstance], I start to accept that I have no choice but to eat sugary foods, even if I know they are bad for me [accepted way of acting].
"I want to stop drinking my daily Frappuccino for the next seven days [intended action]. But because I'm too fatigued to do all my work without a boost of caffeine [discouraging circumstance], I start to accept that I have no choice but to drink one anyway [accepted way of acting]."
"I want to create a a meal plan for the next seven days [intended action], but because I have so little time to myself [discouraging circumstance], I start to accept that I have no choice but to keep eating fast food every day [accepted way of acting]."
"I want to be more patient with my children [intention], but because they are constantly interrupting me [discouraging circumstance] I start to accept that I have no choice but to yell at them [accepted way of acting]."
"I want to take a half-hour walk every day [intended action], but because I'm huffing and puffing so quickly [discouraging circumstance], I start to accept that I have no choice but to stay home and watch TV [accepted way of acting]."
Step 4: Be compassionate to yourself as you would be to a discouraged friend
Imagine you can see that part of you that has accepted that you have no choice but to act in that heartbreaking way that goes against what you really want.
This is the part of you that needs love. Let yourself see that part, as you might see a child who is having a hard time.
Or imagine a friend of yours came to you with this exact discouragement. The friend might say
"I really want [intended action]. But I feel like I have no choice but to accept [accepted way of acting]. And it's really getting me down."
Notice and acknowledge how difficult it is for you to live this way, in the same way you’d notice and acknowledge a good friend who’s become discouraged.
Let yourself see how that part of you is having a difficult time, and gently open up your compassion as you would to a friend.
A few hints:
- This discouraged part of you doesn't need a pep-talk.
- This discouraged part of you doesn’t need advice.
- This discouraged part of yourself doesn't need to be shamed, or ignored, or advised...
... This discouraged part of you simply needs compassion and love.
Let yourself open with compassion to the part of you that has bought the idea that there is no way forward, and that you are fated to have to take that heartbreaking action.
You might find yourself saying something like,
- "I see that you are having a hard time."
- "I have compassion for you."
- "You don't have to face this alone, I'm with you."
- "There is love and support for you in this difficult time."
- "I'll sit here with you until you are ready to try again."
If you are a spiritual person, you might start seeking for your best sense of the answer to the question, “What’s my best sense about how the Highest, Most Merciful Reality in the Universe feels about me, even when I'm believing that I have no choice but to take this heartbreaking action?”
Step 5: Receive new guidance
To receive new guidance, ask yourself:
"From the point of view of this compassionate love, how might I move forward?"
You might get answers like:
"I love you even though it feels like there’s no way forward. I love you even though you don’t know what to do. There is a wave that you are being carried on. There is an that upwelling of love. feel yourself carried by it. Feel how you are carried."
"Finding this solution may be like finding a needle in a haystack, but you aren’t alone. You are guided."
"I know you don’t know what to do next. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up. When you look at the field of options, and have no idea what to do, feel my support and my love for you."
"There are solutions and you can find them. It’s not impossible. I know you’ve felt like you are at it alone. But you are not alone."
Don't try to answer from your mind—really let yourself feel whatever answer the compassionate love might have for you.
And don’t rush it! If you've ever helped someone through a hard time by being compassionate and loving, then you know that you can't rush the process (and that it's actually destructive to try). It may take a while of sitting in the compassion and love for you to get to the point where you start to feel new guidance and new possibility...and a new ability to take aligned action.
Again, I've created an interactive online "Intention to action" toolkit, along with a .PDF version you can print out. Click here to grab your toolkit now. I hope it helps you.