7 Steps to Taking Action - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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7 Steps to Taking Action

Oct 14, 2014


If anyone asked me which one of the seven sins applied to me the most, without batting an eyelid, I would reply with full honesty: SLOTH. By far laziness has been my biggest sin and sometimes the cause of my downfall. It's strange but I always know exactly what I have to do but getting down to doing it can take forever.

Does it sound familiar? Do you need to be pushed into action too?

I remember it used to take me ages to clean up my room. I'd see stacks of books that had to go back on the shelf, piles of clothes that had to be put into my cupboard and several handbags strewn all over. I'd let the mess stay that way for a few days and then finally when it looked really unbearable... one fine day, I'd attack. With the result, I'd waste a whole holiday, catching up on the cleaning when I could have been out watching a romantic flick or going on that long drive to Lonavala.

It dawned on me that I had to change the situation. I had to start getting more organised. So I decided to put one small action into play... I started cleaning up each day. As soon as I saw even one thing pile up, I'd put it away instantly. It just took a few minutes, and it eventually saved me that precious holiday.

Source: Ekkamai Chaikanta / Shutterstock

I have burned my fingers and learned better to stay away from the tempting clutches of sloth. All I do is use this 7-step process to steer me to action, to achieve both small things and big. It's something I devised for myself and now I'm sharing it with you.

Step 1: Create a picture of your goal

Yes, visualization is extremely important. You have to picture in your mind the end result of your goal. It's exactly like what you do when you enter a car showroom and survey your much-desired mean machine. You browse its features, touch its seats, even go a step further and take a test drive. But when you find out the price you realize you have to come back for it in a couple of months. And before you know it, you have saved the money you needed to buy your dream car. You enter the showroom once again (this time with more confidence) and buy exactly what was harbouring in your mind for so long.

But how did it all start? By identifying what you wanted. By choosing one thought over another. By making that firm decision in your mind that you would acquire the product and flaunt it very soon.

Step 2: Break it up into small pieces

What happens when you see a pile full of books you have to read? Or a to-do list that probably has a hundred items on it? You'll simply shut your eyes to them and pretend they don't exist. On the contrary if you keep just one book by your bedside and make a short to-do list everyday of three to five points, be sure you will get through both.

The human mind is like that... it absorbs small bite-sized pieces of information better. And once the mind has accepted it, you will definitely act on it quicker.

Step 3: Start acting on your plan

Have you consulted umpteen dieticians, read all the books by celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar and are still unable to shed those last five kgs? It's because you're still in a state of thinking and planning and moving toward your goal but not really acting on it. You delay the doing either because of the fear of failure or because you don't want to upset the way you currently think and live.

But taking this step is when the real effort begins. It's no longer about finding the best diet, it's about actually taking some things off your plate and adding more healthy options.

Step 4: Follow up on it everyday

If you've seen the recent Kissan ketchup ad Real Joy of Togetherness, you'll notice how even a small child who grows his own plant, wakes up each morning, waters the plant and tracks its growth. It's on top of his mind every day... even before he goes to school. Till one day he finally sees it sprout.

That's exactly what it takes for action to show its results. Keep at it every day, and soon your daily commitment to the task on hand will see you achieve your targets.

Step 5: Course correct if needed

The concept of the palimpsest is very intriguing. Since there was no Microsoft Word in the past, incorrect work that was done on expensive parchment paper was washed away using milk or oat bran. But the paper continued to have traces of the original work done on it. This became a palimpsest, a sheet of paper with multiple corrections on it.

Evaluation and corrections are a part of the course of taking action. You may have to retrace your steps, go back a bit, see what's not working for you, erase approaches that don't work and add new ones instead.

Step 6: Now raise the bar

Have you ever taught language to anyone? You first start with simple three-letter sentences, then add one more word by including an adjective, then you go a step further and insert an adverb. Soon the sentences become more complex, and gradually the learner's grasp on the language and its syntax also increases. The student's vocabulary is now bigger and more complex.

This is a very basic example, but it shows you how slowly and steadily you can keep pushing the scope of your action. As you keep doing an activity increase its intensity and range, make the challenge bigger. This will improve your mastery over it and give you a better outcome.

Step 7: Reward your results

The Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov developed the theory of classical conditioning. After conducting several experiments, he concluded that positive behavior can be developed by rewarding the right responses to your actions, and negative behavior can be reduced by giving some form of punishment. But in either case the reward or punishment has to be immediate.

So if you have met your target of getting up at 6am every morning, give yourself a Sunday off and sleep in. The reward is your celebration of bringing your goals to realisation. It gives you a break, takes away the seriousness of the activity and adds an element of joy to your achievement.

And once you've completed this cycle of seven steps and ticked off one more item on your to-do list, don't get complacent for too long... lest sloth rears its ugly head once again. Instead, make the next plan and start all over again... You can then build a life with a series of successes!


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8 Responses to "7 Steps to Taking Action"

tarachand wadhwani

23 Feb, 2016

Life is not project management, set Goals, follow them to achieve. many things does not happened in planned ways, there are ups / down , happiness / sorrow, family demands, social activities. and above all every thing not happened as planned other wise Man would have become GOD. human being may have many goals /wish lists. all may not be true or correct. because there is KAM, KIROD,LOB, MOH & AHANKAR also part of human life in Kalyug.


05 Feb, 2015

A very good lesson indeed. Will try to act on it with immediate effect and see it bring a change

Like (2)

jossie m

20 Oct, 2014

Dear Ritika. A very simple and meaningful article. I came across it at the time I needed it the most - right now. Your article has energised me and I'm now going after my to do list armed with the 7 step plan. Thnks, Jossie


17 Oct, 2014

So many things to learn.excellent... Thanks Madam.

Jamnadas Dayah

16 Oct, 2014

Simple steps but very useful to complete the task.

Randhir Singh

14 Oct, 2014

very motivational

Mohan R V

14 Oct, 2014

Excellent article! I appreciate the way the steps have been narrated. They are simple, with examples, one can relate to and more importantly.... seem doable. Thanks Ritika


14 Oct, 2014



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