SESSION 4: Actions speak louder Making great things happen in the world
The final part of this programme is about taking all the insights and skills and capacities you’ve cultivated so far into action in your life or work. You’ve probably already been doing that. To build on that momentum, we’ll look at how to develop action plans that you can follow through on. Crucially, these will be firmly rooted in your authentic self – your true values, passions and strengths. We know from experience of working with hundreds of people over the years that establishing these foundations can make all the difference when it comes to making great things happen in the world.
How are you with planning?
Before we look at how to develop a great action plan, it’s worth reflecting on how you are with planning. Some people are natural planners and find comfort in structure. Others prefer to ‘go with the flow’ and to be more spontaneous and flexible around their time and tasks. Neither are right or wrong – they both have pros and cons. It’s good to know where you generally are on this spectrum. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, depending on many circumstantial factors.
If you like planning and find it easier, that’s very helpful when you embark on a new project or life change. But also take care not to get so hooked on planning that it actually stops you from getting into action, or adapting as you go along. On the other hand, if you lean towards flexibility and spontaneity, then you may be less thrown off course by unforeseen events. But perhaps you find it hard to work out what order things should happen in and end up wasting time and energy as a result. So you’re invited to read what follows through your own ‘filters’. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know how thorough and detailed your actioning planning should – or shouldn’t – be.
How to make a wise action plan
The following process blends the deep wisdom we’ve explored on this programme with some well tried-and-tested approaches to action planning. You’ll be invited to take yourself through the process by writing either in your workbook or using the templates described below. Here is a summary of the process:
1. Re-connect with truth: Spend some time reviewing your answers for your vision for your future life; and also your key values, passions and strengths. Notice how they might be linked.
2. Narrow down: Now pick one aspect from what you came up with in your future vision – e.g. an aspiration to move into different type of work. Be as specific as you can about what exactly you want to happen and why. You might find it helpful to brainstorm this with people – friends, family, colleagues etc. Whatever you choose, how does this connect to your values, passions and strengths? Jot down your answers below:
3. Timeframe and stages: What’s the overall timescale? E.g. to move into a new area of work within 3 years. This should feel realistic, without being stretched so far into the future that it’s just a ‘pipedream’. Next, with what knowledge you already have, break this down further into a few clear phases – e.g. 1. Project research. 2. Vocational training. 3. Job experience. 4. Job applications, etc. Put some rough timings on each phase. To do this step you may need to do some outline research.
5. Plotting your path: It can be helpful to have a simple visual representation of your project plan – showing different stages in time. This can help you see what’s do-able. You can also get clear about tasks that overlap or are contingent on others. Include any specific deadlines or milestones you would need to meet along the way. Here’s a simple project path for our same example of moving into a new career:
6. Getting detailed: Now take each main stage/type of activity and break it down further into specific tasks, roughly in the order you will need to do them, and with timescales. At this stage, it’s helpful if everything in the list is a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. Here’s a simple example:
Now it’s your turn! Take yourself through all the stages of a project plan as outlined above. You can either write your answers in your workbook or on plain paper using the formats below:
Next, take each activity or stage from your project plan and do a task list with SMART goals. You may need to use extra paper to do task list for each activity/stage using the format of the table below:
Staying committed in adversity
However thorough your planning is, things rarely exactly go as you’d hoped. Sometimes they go way off course! That can be a result of external events and changes beyond your control. Or you might find that you don’t keep to your plan, or something turns out to be harder or take longer than you’d imagined. That’s life – as they say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
When things go awry, or you don’t live up to your own expectations, it’s essential to find ways to stay motivated and committed. Hopefully you’ve noticed that the essence of this whole programme has been about exactly this. Indeed, ‘resilience’ could be defined as the ability to keep going in the face of adversity.
The best way to recover from setbacks is to allow yourself to have whatever feelings arise (e.g. disappointment, anger, fear) without them taking over. We saw this in the B of the ABC model. The key here is to you allow yourself to process those feelings so that they don’t carry on running you. Then you can pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and see what’s genuinely needed next. You can use the ABC model to take yourself through this ‘recovery’ process:
1. Awareness: Describe the situation objectively – i.e. just the facts. E.g. ‘I didn’t complete the research phase by the deadline I had set myself.’
2. Being with: Notice any thoughts, including harsh self-judgements, and see if you can hang loose to them. Notice emotions and body sensations – and allow yourself to explore them with kindness and curiosity. You don’t need to get rid of them, nor do you need to wallow in them. You may simply need to lick your wounds until they’re healed.
3. Choice: To make the transition into wise intentional mode, ask yourself what you have learnt here that you’d like to take into account going forward. Also, spend some time reminding yourself about your core values, passions and strengths. When you’re ready, ask yourself: what’s the wise choice here? It might be about simply getting back to the plan with minor adaptations. Or it could be a bigger change of direction. You might want to talk this through with someone, or you might know exactly what’s needed. Whatever you do, see if you can notice how you are coming back to a truthful awareness of the situation: including your true capacities and aspirations.
The approach that underpins resilience could be described as ‘grounded optimism’. To understand this, it’s worth noting that autopilot is an inherently pessimistic mind-set. It evolved in our pre-historic ancestors to keep them alive in a world of great danger. So the core maxim that it’s living by is ‘Don’t get killed’, which is hardly a very positive outlook on life!
In this context, when we speak about ‘optimism’, this doesn’t mean the kind of ‘positive thinking’ where you pretend things to be other than they really are. You are not trying to force yourself to be someone you are not, or think something that you just can’t believe. That approach may sometimes work in the short-term, but it’s never very sustainable. Instead, optimism here is more about training yourself out of automatic pessimism and into intentional mode where you can see things in a more objective way. You can allow broader perspectives that naturally lead you towards a more optimistic view of yourself, other people and the world around you. Critically, all this can happen without you needing to suppress challenging emotions – you can allow space for these too, without them dominating.
Programme review and next steps
So, you’ve come to the end of this programme. At risk of cliché, this is also a beginning – of the rest of your life. Hopefully you feel well equipped at a fundamental level to approach whatever lies ahead with a greater degree of clarity, energy and inspiration. It’s worth investing a bit of time over the next few days to capture the essence of what you’ve learnt and achieved during this programme, and your new intentions and aspirations for your life or work. You can write either in your workbook or on plain paper using the formats below:
Review of limiting beliefs
First, you’re invited to complete the exercise on limiting beliefs that you started at the beginning of Part 2 (a reminder of this is in the table to the right). Review the notes you wrote. Notice any thoughts and feelings that arise – perhaps taking a moment with your eyes closed. When you feel ready, gently ask yourself in relation to each limiting belief what new insights or reflections you have now. Do you think and feel differently now to how you did then? Perhaps you don’t really hold that belief anymore, or it’s changed somewhat? Or maybe its impact on you is different? There could be some big shifts here, or smaller ones. Just notice what’s true, and then jot down any of these fresh observations in the right-hand column.
Your key insights
Next, you're invited to jot down some notes about your main insights from this programme. You can use the format of the table to the right:
Your next steps
And finally, you're invited to write down your thoughts on your main aspirations and next steps - in any area of life or work.
Ongoing home practice
1. Mindfulness practice - using the guided meditations on this page
2. Self-awareness - review and refresh your appreciation of your values, passions and strengths (Part 2)
3. Reflecting on other people’s values, passions and strengths: continue using the co-active model and written reflections above to deepen your learning (Part 3)
4. Action planning: continue using the processes and templates in this programme (Part 4)
Guided meditations for download or streaming
Workbook for downloading and printing
Mindful movement video