What I’ve been taking action on this year

What I’ve been taking action on this year

This year, I have been focusing on taking action: on small everyday tasks in order to establish healthy habits, as well as on larger projects where intense, focused action over a short period of time has been required to get the job done!

This year, I have been focusing on taking action: on small everyday tasks in order to establish healthy habits, as well as on larger projects where intense, focused action over a short period of time has been required to get the job done!

In the next few posts, I will be focusing on the different ways we can take action in our lives to accomplish any goal we set for ourselves.

In this post, I thought I would start by sharing some of the ways I’ve taken action this year to demonstrate how easy it can actually be to take action – if I can do it, so can you! And hopefully this will inspire you by giving you a few ideas of ways you can take action in your life too!

The first area of my life I’ve taken action on this year has been my running practice. I’ve been running for a for nearly 15 years now, and whilst I have continued to run pretty consistently over the years, the speed and distances I have run often change based on what I’m training for. My favourite distances are 10km and half marathons, so the focus of my training switches between interval training and trying to increase my speed, to building endurance and distance, depending on which event and distance I’m running.

The only times my running routine was noticeably impacted was during my two pregnancies, and the first few months of post-partum. Whilst I also continued to run throughout the COVID years, races were suspended during this period, which meant I didn’t have the motivation to train seriously, so most of my runs were leisurely. I also managed to injure my foot from wearing worn-out slippers around the house during lockdown – which just goes to show how important proper footwear is!

After COVID and my foot injury, my running practice felt stuck in a rut. However, I wasn’t too hard on myself, because I figured continuing to run at whatever pace or distance would still maintain my fitness and was better than not running at all.

Midway through last year I ran my first 10km race after a two-year hiatus from racing. In hindsight, the type of race I chose as my “comeback race” was probably not the best. It was a heavily undulating trail run with a very steep hill at the 5km mark, which left me not only exhausted, but also disheartened with the time I’d run – probably my slowest ever!

By the end of last year I’d had enough. I wanted to improve my 10km time (which has been a goal for a number of years), but I wasn’t sure where to start. So, I decided to start where I often start with something I’m struggling with or want to improve – with a book!

I’d purchased the eBook, Run Fast by running guru, Hal Higdon a couple of years ago, but never got around to reading it. After announcing my goal of running 10km in 45min to my book club buddies before Christmas, I knew I needed to pull my socks up, finish the book and put the advice in into practice. The book also prompted me to research running programs and find an excellent free Nike running program that was suitable for starting where I was at and finishing where to wanted to – a faster 10km in 3 months.

I became laser focused on this goal and began talking about it more regularly with others. This is part of the magic of goal setting because in sharing your goal with others, they often try to help. This is what happened when I went to my husband’s Christmas party and started talking to one of his work colleagues. I learned he had started working with a running coach and had completely changed his running technique for the better. He was running faster and further than he ever had before. That was exactly what I needed! Naturally I grabbed the details for his running coach and sent the coach a message after Christmas.

Three months on and my running technique has changed significantly and all the little niggles I experienced when I ran longer distances, such as aching hips have completely disappeared. I now feel like I’m running in a body 10 years younger. But the real test was the 10km race I signed up for in March.

It wasn’t the easiest of races – it was hot, and I took a wrong turn at the end which completely eroded my confidence. I did, however, shave 15 minutes off my “disaster run” of last year, so not all bad. With a little more work on my cardio and endurance, I figure the only way is up!

The biggest learnings I’ve had from taking action towards this goal are to tell other people about your goal. Not only will it hold you accountable, they might even be able to help you with suggestions or next steps you could take to get there sooner.

Also don’t feel you need to go things on your own. Reach out for the help of a coach or mentor. A less expensive option could be to join a running group where you get the help and advice of your peers, especially those further along on their journey than you. And don’t underestimate the value of a book on the topic of the goal you want to achieve. Books are brilliant ‘jumping off’ points.

Finally, whilst my end goal is to run 10km in 45 min, I will approach this audacious goal by trying to shave minutes off each race I enter. This way I will continue to make constant progress towards my end goal, without feeling deflated when I don’t smash my goal on the first or even 5th time. Incremental improvement is fine by me!

The other area I have taken significant action on this year has been singing. I started singing lessons in May last year and whilst I’m no Whitney Houston, my voice has improved immensely over the last year. I am living proof that if you can talk, you can sing. Some people have a naturally beautiful voice. However, it is completely possible to learn and improve this skill through vocal and breathing exercises, as well as training your ear to listen and sing in tune, whilst training your brain to memorise lyrics. Many of the techniques you apply when you learn a physical activity, such as dancing or exercising can be applied to singing.

Singing, unlike any other musical instrument I’ve learnt, has been easier to practice because it is something I can do in the car when I’m driving around.

In order to get better, I try to do vocal exercises every day, even for just 5 minutes, as well as practice the song I’m working on. Unlike the way I’ve previously practiced pieces of music, I don’t perfect each song to performance standard. I am learning, not performing (at the moment, anyway), which means I don’t spend weeks on them. Each song gets my attention for just a couple of weeks so I get them to around 90%, then I move onto the next song I want to learn. By regularly changing up the songs I’m learning, I’m continuously learning new skills and techniques. There are many different ways to learn things, but I find this works for me and increases my learning exponentially!

I also try different songs that I like, but aren’t in my comfort zone to sing. I have a low, quiet voice, so I make sure I attempt loud songs so I can learn how to belt, as well as songs in a higher register to extend my range. Some of these songs have been so challenging I’ve considered quitting them, but every time I push through and relentlessly practice the hard bits I eventually get them right, which has boosted my confidence in myself and my ability to achieve what I want through determination and practice.

There are many other things I’ve made headway on by taking action so far this year. The areas I’ve had the most success in have been the ones where I’ve taken small, incremental action regularly, which I will talk a bit more about in the next episode.

In the meantime, I’m throwing the ball back to you.

I’d like you to take a few moments to stop and reflect on the things you’ve achieved this year. Consider the following questions, and feel free to record your answers in your journal to help you reflect and gain more clarity:

  1. What have been the easiest things for you to take action on this year? Why has it been easy to take action on these goals? For example, have you had more help or support, or dedicated more time to them?
  2. Now think of the things you’d like to take action on, but haven’t yet. Why haven’t you been able to get traction on these things so far? What resources are you lacking in these areas that have been available for the areas where you have been able to take action?
  3. What three action steps can you take toward these goals or areas over the next 3 months?

Hopefully this simple reflection exercise will highlight some new goals you’d like to achieve over the next quarter, as well as your next steps to get you started. You will probably find, as I did with my running goal, just getting started is often the hardest step.

“You must take action now that will move you towards your goals. Develop a sense of urgency in your life.”H. Jackson Brown, Jr.