[NOTE: Below is a slightly edited repost of an article I recently penned for Books For Better Living. I hope you enjoy it.
Rich Roll, author of the upcoming book Finding Ultra (available May 22, 2012), was 50 pounds overweight and about to turn 40 when his spark of inspiration hit—he was struggling to climb a simple flight of stairs and knew it was time to make big changes. He committed to a new diet, started training, and within two years, was competing in elite Ultraman events. We asked Rich for his tips on turning those sparks of inspiration—whether you want to get fit, change your career or volunteer in your community—into real action. —BBL Editor
We all want to be inspired. In fact, we crave it. It feels great when we meet a compelling and charismatic person, work through a challenging new experience or even watch a video that uplifts us, our senses powerfully altered. Much like the effect this viral piece for Nike by the brilliant Casey Neistat had on me after viewing (I’ve since watched it at least a dozen times; it’s that good):
Unfortunately, that emotive spark is typically temporary, quickly fading and failing to translate into any tangible action, let alone sustainable self-improvement. The bulb quickly dims, and it’s back to the status quo.
Why? We’re busy. The boss is calling, the kids are crying, and we have bills to pay. Believe me, I’ve been there. I get it. But I finally realized that change is always within our grasp, irrespective of circumstance. It’s never too late.
The key is harnessing that spark of inspiration—whatever it may be—to alter your conduct. It starts with a decision followed by immediate action, which when sustained over time, can improve your life in ways you couldn’t possibly predict. It happened to me. And I’m here to say it can happen for you, too.
Here are five simple and easy to implement tools I use that have helped me tremendously:
1. The power of the pen: When the spark is lit, stop everything, put pen to paper and actually write out (don’t type!) the personal change you wish to actualize. The power of this exercise cannot be overstated.
2. Goals—get specific: Vague notions of someday learning how to play the guitar, “get fit” or work on your stand-up comedy act don’t cut it. Take the time to devise a detailed road map peppered with interim milestones. Then get off your butt and execute it. Holding yourself accountable to others can help keep you on track.
3. Don’t overthink it—just begin: What are you waiting for? Stop deliberating—inaction is an affront to inspiration. Begin immediately, even if it just means making one phone call, going out for a 10-minute jog, or declining one dessert. Baby steps, taken indefatigably over a protracted period of time, move mountains. Consistency is to be respected and never underestimated.
4. One day at a time: Fall off the wagon? So what? None of us is perfect. Let it go and move forward. Dwell on a misstep and you have made a second mistake that can take you permanently out of the game. Just let it go and take the next right action.
5. Journey orientation: It’s easy to get discouraged by the implausibility of your dream. So forget about it. Instead, stay present in the moment of your new journey. Rather than obsess on what it will be like to cross the marathon finish line or how you will look in that bikini next summer, embrace the joy of traveling unchartered waters.
Tread this path with passion, commitment, purpose and integrity — irrespective of knowing your specific destination or how exactly you will get there — and you will soon realize, as I have on countless occasions, that the universe will conspire to support your dream in amazing and unpredictable ways—I guarantee it.
Join me. Take the leap to a better you. Be bold. And prepare to be astounded. I dare you.
Learn more about Rich and his upcoming book Finding Ultra at findingultra.com.