How to switch from intention to action


We’ve all been there at some time or another. There is something about our lives that we’d love to change, but we just can’t seem to make it happen.

And then one day after perhaps trying many times, something happens that makes action possible.

And at that time the decision seems easy.

It’s not that you were pushed over the edge, but perhaps pushed close to it. And without thinking twice, you decide ‘enough is enough’.

The decision takes little effort and it seems your commitment has come from nowhere to make change happen.

What’s that all about? Why couldn’t you take action before? Where does all that resolve come from? Why do you suddenly start being on your game, when previously you didn’t even bother showing up?

Everyone’s rock bottom is different

There will always be things you inherently don’t want to do, and sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can move forward. The most obvious examples that spring to mind are in relation to drugs and alcohol, but rock bottoms can also apply to less extreme situations associated with being overweight or inactive. You get to a point where you realise your current position is just not worth it and you can not continue. No more.

For me it was hiking with a close friend in Vietnam. I was busy just keeping up due to an extremely poor level of fitness, while my friend was busy making memories to last forever. She was fit and able to stride energetically up and down hills with minimal effort. The realisation of how much change I needed to make was astonishing. Immediately on my return home, I joined a gym, I got a trainer, and I never looked back. It’s been more than ten years, but I remember that feeling like it was yesterday.

But your rock bottom doesn’t have to happen outside your usual environment to be effective and profound. Another friend was having a session with his physiotherapist, when he looked in the mirror and realised he did not like the body shape of the person looking back. As I write this he’s busy fixing his diet and the weight’s dropping off more easily than he ever expected. But previously he hadn’t even recognised there was a problem.

Everyone’s rock bottom is different.

Don’t worry if you think yours is minor or superficial in comparison to other people’s experience.

Also don’t worry if it’s so significant that you can’t bear to tell too many people.

It’s yours and only your opinion matters.

What’s great is that your rock bottom is the foundation for you to climb your way out and up toward something better.

Start the climb out of the hole

While some holes are bigger than others, if you’re looking at fixing your diet and level of activity, a process you might like to consider is:

  • Have a whinge: not many people will want to hear what you have to say, or how you want to say it, but acknowledging your situation and the fact that you don’t like it is the best way to do something about it. Let it out and then get ready to move on. Lament the fact that pizza and all day movie sessions on the couch are no longer for you.
  • Work out where you want to be, and why you want to change: what are the benefits associated with the change you want? Why bother? Be very clear about this with yourself. It will give you a better chance of success. You may want to lose ten kilograms by the start of football season. Or you may want to be strong enough to play with the great great grandchildren when you’re 90. Your goals are yours. Noone else has to like them, or like your reason for making change. And being fit and strong is a good enough reason in itself.
  • Start thinking positively: this is where you head starts to help. “When I exercise I’ll have more energy for everything in my life.” “When I lose weight I’ll look awesome naked.” “When I get fit I’ll have less stress and be able to deal with anything life throws at me.”. Whatever your goal, keep the internal voice as positive as possible.
  • Get a plan, get help (if you need to) and get started: in this current world of ready access to information there is no reason for anyone to not understand the principles of healthy eating and an active lifestyle. Everyone knows less sugar, enough protein, loads of water, and no junk food is the way to go as the most basic start for change. So our inaction is not usually about knowledge of what is required. It’s more likely to be about knowing how to change your behaviour. These are entirely different things. Work out how you’re going to do this. And realise you may need help. And that’s OK.


Reach for the sky

Some thoughts to make your launch from rock bottom easier:

  • cut yourself some slack: and be patient. It most likely took you some time to bottom out. So expect that it will take some time to make progress.
  • don’t take on too much too quickly: if you make too much change too early, you may make everything too hard, with an increased likelihood of reverting back to your old ways. But if you also change too many variables at once, you might not be able to pinpoint what’s resulting in the best change for you. Are you losing weight because you cut the sugar, walked an extra hour every day, or started wearing your hair differently?
  • realise that some habits were hardwired into you as a child: this is not an excuse, but a great deal of how you behave today is down to your parents. No one is born with an extreme aversion to vegetables, and no one is born sitting in front of a television.
  • get a routine: never underestimate the benefits of routine. When you have things planned and you “just do it” without the protracted internal debate, life gets easier.
  • aim to do it for life: you’ll do better when you start with the perspective that any change worth the effort is worth doing forever.
  • do it for yourself: 100 people can tell you to start exercising and to eat better, but until you embrace it and take it on board for yourself, nothing will happen.

You’ll be amazed when you wake up one day, and realise your change has paid off. And it’s all been worth it.

This realisation will happen as unexpectedly as your rock bottom realisation, but it will make you smile this time.



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