Thought to action


We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.
~ Buddha

Have you ever experienced “What was I thinking” moment?

You thought something was a good idea and you signed up for it. After sometime passed, you hardly could believe that you actually thought that was a good idea.

Real example – something I just did last Sunday. When the registration for Jakarta Marathon 2015 opened, I thought it was a good idea to sign up for it and that I will commit to train for it. I ended up not training properly and it turned out to be a slow, arduous and hot marathon. And during the course my mind kept saying, like a broken record “What was I thinking, doing a full marathon in Jakarta? Don’t you know that Jakarta is hot? And air pollution is bad?” and so on. (I did finish it, with a worst marathon timing of 6 hours 22 minutes)

On the other hand, have you ever experienced “Awesome! I’m so happy I thought of it!” moment?

When you have a good idea, and you decided to pursue it, and then the idea manifested into something real, how great the feeling is!

I had this thought when I met this special yoga teacher “I want to learn yoga more than just asana” because he showed that yoga was so much more than asana. I never get to meet that teacher again. After a few years more of joining many variety of yoga styles, I didn’t find the breadth and depth of yoga like that teacher showed, and finally I took a 2 years Diploma of Yoga course from the school where that teacher came from. That course gave me a solid framework to learn more – and since then I met many wonderful teachers whom I always learn something from, and I realized that the key to learning is always come empty and never afraid of asking questions.

So I learned yoga more than just asana, I learned how to instruct a yoga class, and I also aspire to share yoga more than just asana. Now I have people who are looking into doing yoga more than just asana coming to me. I have a weekly meditation group where we practice pranayama, meditation, and discuss yoga-related philosophy.

Some people asked me, how did you make the jump? From a corporate employee to become a yoga instructor & meditation facilitator?

It all started with a thought. And then followed by an action (series of actions – but there’s always the first step).

Often what happens is that the thought is so abstract, humongous, it was overwhelmingly huge, and we don’t know where to start, and the inertia is so strong that it’s easier to just stay where we are.

The key here is to identify an action that we can do to get the ball rolling. To start moving. To beat the inertia.

I learned this from the book Getting Things Done by David Allen, on how to just identify a ‘next action’ item from a project. And project is anything that requires more than just one action to finish. Example: cleaning the bed room is project, because it requires a few steps:

  1. pick things up
  2. wipe all surfaces
  3. mop floor
  4. put things strewn on the bed to its proper place
  5. change bed sheets
  6. etc

When we are not clear of what the next action is, we procrastinate. Yes, that big bad P word. We procrastinate because we thought the situation is not ideal to do something. In the clean bed room example, things are all over the place, so we can’t start doing what’s on our mind when we thought of cleaning (eg sweep the floor). And then we just give up the thought of cleaning the bed room altogether.

The above example is pretty simple, yet this concept can be applied to any projects no matter how big or complex – just divide it into smaller sub-projects, and keep breaking it down until you identify the next actions.

A useful next action list will always start with a verb, and quite specific, example:

  • Call Mom re Dad’s surprise birthday party
  • Look into selling cabinet
  • Buy eggs
  • Read chapter 4 of the text book
  • Email boss re holiday leave
  • Write a draft post before Monday

And so on. Once an action item is done, usually it will generate a new situation/condition/feedback, that will in turn generate more action items. One action followed by another action, that’s how we progress.

So there, everything we do started with a thought, and it’s all within our power to translate the thought to action. A useful skill is knowing if a thought is a data (for reference), a project (with an outcome in mind), an action (do it, or delegate it, or schedule it), or something that you don’t need (trash it).

Up next – from actions to habits.

Image of a Buddha statue at Borobudur Temple – taken by myself November 2014

5 thoughts on “Thought to action

  1. Hi Silvia, firstly nice photo. Didn’t know you were into photography. I really enjoyed this post. I have always had problems acting upon my ideas. I am very good at breaking down and executing projects at work, but can’t seem to do the same when it comes to my personal projects. I never take them seriously enough. I tend to get overwhelmed. Therefore, I like your suggestion of only thinking of and doing the next step and figuring the rest out upon completing that next step. I’m going to give that a try.

    • Hi Chandra, thanks! Totally understand – I used to have the same problem. I’m fine with work but somehow couldn’t apply the same process with personal projects. It takes effort and change of habits to apply the same process with personal projects. Again I followed David Allen’s GTD here – I have projects pages in my notebook, for every project (work & personal). On the top I wrote my desired outcome of the project (eg: Tidy & neat workplace at home). And then I listed the next actions I can take (eg: organize books by category. throw away dead pens. purchase ergonomic chair. etc). And then depending on how much time & energy I have at any given moment, I chose to do an action and cross it off. Review daily (or minimum weekly) – and see next actions that comes up after we finished or thought of certain action (eg: in order to purchase an ergonomic chair, need to find out where to buy, price, etc. research on the internet).
      What usually happens everything jumbles up inside our head and then we decided to do nothing.

      • Hi Silvia, that is a good suggestion. I have heard good things about GTD. I will give it a shot. Do you have any recommendations for how to get started with GTD? Did you read a book or attend training?

  2. Pingback: Actions to habits | perpetual work in progress

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