I heard someone this week state “Mood follows action.” It reminded me of a saying we often used when I was leading change projects in my former life in banking: “You can’t think your way into a new way of acting. You have to act your way into a new way of thinking.”
Being the ever-analytical person that I am, that maxim drives me crazy. My logical self feels cheated, and my risk averse self feels threatened. Thinking before action seems like the right thing to do.
In my banking world, we were often cleaning up messes stemming from another common maxim: Ready--Fire – Aim. A little thinking would have been useful before some of the actions that broke systems, alienated employees and abandoned customers.
But all too often, what I call “thinking” is instead the swirl of sameness. My own limiting beliefs, formed by my experiences and calcified into a Lynn version of truth, circulate through me like a force field. This kind of “thinking” prevents me from doing something that might feel uncomfortable.
During my banking years, I failed to see that I was the one creating this reality. As a result, I stagnated. And then I justified my paralysis with logic.
Sometimes I wonder what life would be like today had I stayed paralyzed. Would I have continued the corporate grind, counting the days to retirement? What would my physical fitness (or lack of fitness) be like? Would I be enjoying life or just enduring it? Would I even still be here?
There’s no way to know. Thankfully, I started taking different actions. Most were tiny. Some were frighteningly large.
In almost every case, taking action helped shift my thinking.
I remember sitting on the porch outside my office one evening, soon after we moved from Charlotte to Lake Lure. I was in my early 40’s. Old thoughts and new thoughts were swirling in my head. Old thoughts hammered me about leaving a secure job, walking away from a big bonus, and facing an uncertain future. The “itty bitty shitty committee” in my head had a field day yelling at me about what a mistake I had made.
New thoughts came in whispers. “Look where you are. See the mountains. Enjoy the moment. Trust yourself.”
Old thoughts said, “It might not work!”
New thoughts said, “Give it a try.”
I left the porch that evening aware that our big leap might NOT work. But the life we were living might not have worked either.
Somewhere in that time frame, I started paying attention to my daily routines. Working from home was still relatively new to me. While no one would have known or cared if I got dressed or stayed in my PJs every day, I found it made a difference in my outlook. After attending a deep leadership session six months after the towers fell on 911 in New York, I started doing a regular yoga routine every morning. Stretching and moving my body was like hitting a daily reset button. I typically do my writing before I check email or do other administrative tasks.
If mood follows action, my daily routine is a place where I establish a positive baseline for my day.
While each day is different, especially running my own business, I have a lot of control over my mornings. Developing a morning routine anchors me. In the face of a lot of uncertainty, my simple daily actions show me how to distinguish between what I could control and what I couldn’t.
Every big accomplishment is made up of a series of small actions. My body wears the cumulative effect of doing yoga for the last twenty years. There’s no telling how different it would be had I not done it every morning. I’m glad I will never know.
What big accomplishments are you working to achieve this year? What small actions are you taking towards that goal? Where can you break the steps down into even smaller pieces? How does your morning routine influence the rest of your day? What small actions can you take daily to set the most productive mood for the work you are doing?