ACT your Dreams into Reality

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I love writing speeches for Toastmasters. Writing has always been a way for me to work through problems and clarify my thoughts so it’s no surprise that with each speech I learn something new and gain valuable insight.

I had several epiphanies  working through Speech 3 that were so powerful that I wanted a way to remember them. Acronyms work and ACT fit perfectly.

I chose ACT because each point got me from planning to DOING.These ideas reframed my thinking so I could move past my fears and start but also keep me going when the novelty and excitement of my goals wear off.

So here is how you ACT your dreams into reality:

A – Accolades do NOT equal growth.

I got a lot of good feedback  and encouragement for my first speech and was riding high afterwards. I worked hard on my second speech and, in my mind, it was even better than the first. Not only did I think the content was inspirational but I thought I delivered it well. My head swelled with anticipation at my critique. While I got high marks, my evaluator did exactly what he was suppose to do. He pointed out both the good and bad (areas he thought I could improve on).  But there was no fawning, so I was deflated. I became unmotivated and it took me two weeks to recover. It was Speech 3 that helped me see what happened and change my perspective.

The reason I signed up for Toastmasters was to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone, learn and grow. Accolades are great but can be a double edged sword. It’s wonderful to get feedback that you’re on the right path, doing a good job, that all your hard work has paid off BUT it can stunt your growth if you’re not careful. I focused on approval and when people (rightly) didn’t fall all over themselves to tell me how great I was…it stopped me in my tracks. But when I switched my focus to improving myself, my motivation returned.

The takeaway – Switch mindset from approval to improvement.

C – Create value.

I had a fear of being rejected. It was so big and ingrained in my belief system that I didn’t realize it drove every thought and action. Or more accurately, inaction. I wanted to do great things and be so much more but I rarely followed through resulting in frustration and self-incrimination.  Once I quit focusing on myself (“what do they think of me?” “I don’t have the right degree”, “I’m too old”, etc) and focused on creating value, something amazing happened. I was no longer paralyzed by fear because it wasn’t about me anymore (phew!). It’s about making a difference.

The takeaway – Albert Einstein said it best – “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

T – Tiny steps.

The buzzword in the goal-setting community is Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Dream big! And I whole heartily agree but I overwhelmed myself into couch potato status and the cycle of frustration and incrimination would begin all over again.

One of the cornerstones of the Kaizen Muse Creativity Coach model (where I received my certification) is small steps. The concept isn’t new and is based on ‘kaizen”, a Japanese word meaning continual improvement (weren’t we just talking about that?)

One aspect of small steps is committing to something for just 5 minutes (I’ll write for 5 minutes, I’ll exercise for 5 minutes…you get the idea). It works by overcoming the inertia or resistance we have to getting starting by being so ridiculously easy and non-threatening. If you become engrossed in the project, you can keep going or stop after 5 minutes and celebrate that you met your goal (these small successes keep us motivated and moving forward).

But thinking about small steps made me realize something else. Breaking a big goal down into little steps  not only keeps us from being overwhelmed, taking our goals one small step at a time helps us gain the knowledge and confidence we need to GROW into our Big Hairy Audacious Goals. My mistake had been thinking that I could skip right past “beginner” and be an expert. Growing into my goals was a game changer for me.

The takeaway – “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

Do any of these ideas resonate with you? What do you do to get started and keep motivated? I’d love to hear from you.

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