Cup by Cup

lemonadeArticle contributed by Amy Sargent

There’s nothing like a new year to get us motivated to make a change. Just skim your friends’ social media posts and you’ll most likely read a plethora of energized, excited-for-what’s-ahead resolutions. You’ve probably made a few yourself, even if you haven’t posted them for all to see. The start of a fresh calendar year is the natural motivator we need to prompt initiative and a bias for action.

But what happens in February, March, April, and onward is often a different story. As enthusiasm wanes, resolutions are sidetracked by life. Busy-ness, distractions, and discouragement can shift the best of intentions to a source of shame and guilt stemming from our lack of follow-through, which leaves many, yet again, to announce in December, “Can’t wait for this one to end!”

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

Having a bias for action is actually a competency of social + emotional intelligence. Those who have it are able to create opportunities and seize them, not letting things like the red tape of bureaucracy and other external circumstances slow them down. They are often risk-takers and go forward with boldness in pursuit of the hopes, dreams, and plans. They accomplish their goals and move on to climb taller mountains. But those who do not possess this quality–and we all know the type–probably because we are one of them in some shape or form–are waiting, waiting, waiting for something good to come their way. They often are procrastinators, operating out of either survival or crisis mode, need direction to get things done, and are known to give up easily when circumstances don’t lend a helping hand.

Which camp do you fall into?

A misnomer on being one who is proactive is that one has to take on something huge to make a difference. I love the story of Alex Scott, a little girl from Connecticut who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer that forms in the nerve tissue. Rather than give up, Alex decided to do something about it. At age four she asked her mom to help her set up a lemonade stand to raise money so that doctors could, in her words, “help other kids”. That first lemonade stand brought in profits of $2,000, and throughout her short lifetime of eight impactful years, her lemonade sales raised over $1 million toward cancer research and to this day continue to inspire as many as 10,000 volunteers, at over 2000 lemonade stands in her name, to make a difference in the lives of kids who are battling cancer.

Cups of lemonade!

The smallest of actions can bring about powerful results. The important thing is that you keep moving forward, keep squeezing those lemons and adding sugar, stirring faithfully, and get out there and sell that lemonade, even if it is cup by cup.

If you struggle with staying power, the good news is that there are ways to jump start your initiative and bias for action. Here are some small steps that will propel you forward when your start to lose steam:

·        Make a to-do list. As simple and overrated as this may sound, write down your goals and list out some simple, daily steps to get there. This list can serve as a guide when you begin to get off track.

·        Figure out what is tripping you up. Is it fear of failure? Do you have too many tasks on your plate? Are you stretched in too many directions? Are you allowing distractions to deter you from your goals? Attempt to identify your hurdles by writing them down. If you’re not sure, ask a friend or a trusted colleague, or seek out the help of a coach.

·        Tackle the tough jobs first. Every goal has aspects which are more enjoyable than others. Getting the ‘worst’ ones out of the way first frees you up to enjoy the rest of the project and helps you avoid procrastination down the road.

·        Focus on the things you CAN do and not on the things you CANNOT. Start with these ‘can-do’s’ and get some help on the ones that you just can’t tackle alone.

·        Revisit to your list of daily to-do’s and refocus on checking off the next item when you discover you are losing momentum.

I don’t doubt you’ll achieve your New Year’s resolutions this month. But when the excitement begins to wane, remember the lemonade stand, and remind yourself that taking these small, basic steps can help you refocus and keep up the good fight, cup by cup.

“Have a bias towards action – let’s see something happen right now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.”  — Indira Gandhi

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