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Taking Action – The Only Way Out is Through

taking action on your goals

When I’m not sure what to do, I do nothing. And my hunch is I’m not alone. When something feels big, it’s easier to do nothing than something.

Time management experts will tell you to divide a big project into small pieces, to make it manageable. That’s good advice. The universe – as woo-woo as it sounds – rewards action. Momentum, like inertia, is very powerful. As we know, a body that’s in motion is likely to stay in motion. A body at rest is likely to stay at rest.

The key to getting through anything large, scary, or intimidating is to start. Any action will do. The key is simply taking action.

Here are five keys to make taking action more likely:

Taking action key #1: What often stands in the way of taking action is that we aren’t sure what to do. Perhaps we aren’t sure we can do the task at hand. Or we can’t see what the end result should look like. Or the project feels so big that even thinking about starting is tiring. Ask questions and ask for help.

Most managers aren’t great delegators. When assigning a project, managers often ask, “Do you have any questions?” This is an ineffective question because few people want to admit to having questions about a project that feels so big, all they want to do is avoid it and take a nap. Or managers ask, “What do you need from me?” when most people have no idea what they need.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions until you’re clear about what a good job looks like, and ask for help.

Taking action key #2: Do one small thing, anything, towards achieving the goal. And do it now. Don’t wait until the right time. There is no right time.

Taking action key #3: Then do one more thing. Don’t wait six weeks or months to take another action. Momentum is very powerful. Keep things moving.

Taking action key #4: Give yourself small windows of time to work on a project. If you give yourself 30 uninterrupted minutes to work, you’re likely to invest that time. If you dedicate a day, you’re likely to get distracted and fill the time with other things.

Taking action key #5: Trust that you can do what’s in front of you. Someone wouldn’t have asked you to do something if they’d didn’t have confidence that you could do it. And if this is a goal you set for yourself, and it’s something you really want, deep down, you know you’re capable of doing it.

If you’re overwhelmed or don’t believe you can do something, call someone who has more faith in you than you have in yourself, at this present moment. Let that person fill you with confidence until you can generate it for yourself. When I started Candid Culture, I was filled with fear and quite honestly, was convinced I was going to fail. But everyone around me believed I could do it. And their confidence carried me until I could generate my own.

The way out is always through. Ask for help. Take one small action, then another. Dedicate small pieces of uninterrupted time to work on a large project. Trust that you can do it. Things don’t get done without your action. Take one action, then the next, then the next.
taking action on your goals


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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4 Responses to “Taking Action – The Only Way Out is Through”

  1. Love this article Shari! It applied to me several months ago when I moved from one residence to another. At first when I had to start packing ( after living for 15 years at my first residence) I was so over whelmed I didn’t even know where to begin to start packing. I called a friend who is always there for me and believes in me. She said start in the room that you use the least and pack the articles you hardly ever use. Brilliant idea! It got me going which I needed. When I packed up that room, several days later and I saw how much more I had to do to pack up my entire place, I had to lay down for 2 hours to take in all in about what I had ahead of me. I broke up the project into several hours each day to pack even on days when I did not want to pack. My sister- in -law also gave me ideas as well who is always supportive ( the sister I never had). Somehow I packed up everything and moved but breaking it down to a several hours each day, support from friends and a plan to tackle a little bit at a time, was a strong motivating factor that I was in fact making progress. Your article is so on-target, YET AGAIN! It applies to so many tasks in our lives.

    • Shari Harley says:

      Love this story, thanks for sharing! I agree that many times, you can apply practices from your professional life to your personal life. This is a great example.

  2. AnnMarie Kochevar says:

    Your blog is very timely in my life. I am currently reading the Happiness Project and this ties into that perfectly. It is really hard for me to ask for help but I am realizing that it is imperative to making progress and obtaining goals. Moving in the direction that I want to be makes me feel good, even if my progress is slow. Thank you Shari! Here is to finding our Happiness!!

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