I coach people to have brilliant ideas which change the world. That’s just my thing. So I’m frequently encouraging my clients to think thoughts they’ve never thought before, to say things they’ve never said before, and to take bold actions they have never taken before.
I have discovered that there’s a world of difference between recognizing the possibility of birthing innovation, and actually following through to execute it. If you’re familiar at all with the Radical Brilliance cycle, you will know that each of these phases involve completely different kinds of activity, completely different subjective psychological states, involving completely different kinds of brain chemistry.
Having new bold ideas, and thinking outside the box, requires relaxation and playfulness, and often involves the secretion of dopamine in your brain. Execution on these ideas, on the other hand, often relies upon the secretion of hormones into the bloodstream: testosterone for a more masculine style of accomplishment, and oxytocin for a more feminine style. Either way, as we get closer to reaching deadlines and getting things done, there is often the involvement of norepinephrine in the brain.
Most of the people I work with view new ideas, behaviors, and projects as relatively easy in anticipation. It’s a breeze, nothing to it. I can do that easily. Most of these people are very surprised when they don’t end up doing what they said they would. This could apply to regular practice (like meditation, yoga, or qigong), to exercising regularly, to business activities, or even to your love life.
I frequently have to encourage people to wipe the stars out of their eyes, and to realize that execution is rarely as straightforward and simple as we anticipate. Here are six useful tips on how to follow through on a moment of inspiration.
- The five minute rule.When you’re going to commit to any new activity, firmly commit to five minutes regularly, with the understanding that you can keep going if it feels good. You want to start meditating? Commit to five minutes only. Planning on writing an epic book? Just commit to writing for five minutes a day. Like this, if the flow has not kicked in after five minutes, you can stop and know that you kept your word. If the flow has kicked in, on the other hand, you can keep going as long as you want.
- Make sure you have someone to report to. Research conducted by The American Society of Training and Development discovered that people are 65 percent more likely to meet an intended action after sharing it with another person. Chances go up to to 95 percent when that partner has a way to check in regularly on your progress. That’s a staggering difference. If you’re trying to implement a new habit or get something done, make sure that someone else knows about it.
- Never make excuses.If you say you are going to do something, whether it’s to be on time, clean the kitchen, have sex once a week, or complete a report on time, if for any reason you’re not successful, never explain why. As soon as you say “I’m late because of traffic,” you’ve just entered into a universe where you are the effect of things outside your control. And anyway, generally you can anticipate things like traffic and leave early enough to accommodate the unexpected. Instead, even though it may be very difficult to say these words, when you break your word, just say “I didn’t do what I said I would do because it was not important enough to me.” Sometimes you may kick and scream to say this sentence, but it will actually get you more into the habit of following through.
- Use the jar.My coach, Melissa Ford told me to have strips of paper available on my desk with a pen. Every time I do something a little challenging or scary and execute on a promise, I write down what it was, and put that slip of paper into a glass jar. As the papers build up, they become living proof, right in front of my eyes, that I am an accountable person.
- Don’t make lists. Sometimes my clients have several different “business opportunities,” or directions in which they could move, and they want to share with me how lucky they are to have this kind of diversity of choice. But sadly, it’s not lucky at all. Multiple research studies done on people clicking buttons on a web page indicate that if you give someone just one thing to do, there’s about a 50% chance they will do it. Give someone three buttons to choose from, and the chance that they will do any one of them goes down to approximately 35%. In other words, having multiple choices available to you kills the capacity to take action. Focus entirely on one thing, give it all of you, and when it ceases to look promising, stop and reevaluate.
- Reward yourself. Whenever you push through and get something done, there is the temptation, because of the excretion of norepinephrine to feel inclined to move on to the next task. Instead, stop. Go outside, stretch your body, have a nice cup of tea. Give yourself pleasure every time you execute on an intention.
In order to be effective in the world, especially right now at a time when it is so needed, we need to be able to have good ideas as well as to put them into practice.
I’d love to hear if you have some additional tips to add to my list that I did not include.