How to Accomplish Any Goal with an Action Plan

Marines offer motivation during workout.
Capt. Evita Mosqueda-Chapman, recruiting support officer, Recruiting Station San Diego, motivates students at the Wake Up and Work Out session with U.S. Marines at the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Symposium in Seattle, Nov. 4, 2016. (Sgt. Taylor Morton/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

If you have the answer to the age-old question to how to motivate yourself to achieve your goals, please share it. It seems effortless for some but nearly impossible for others.  

Maybe it is not an issue of motivation at all but one of action. Sometimes waiting for motivation (or inspiration) is a mistake. The best course of action is often “fake it till you make it.”  To take any motivation to the next level requires a series of making decisions to take action, then taking action repeatedly -- even when you do not feel like it.

Decisions Start Actions, Which Build Habits

Typically, success comes down to two habits: one you have to start and one you have to stop. The decision of doing so and the action to begin is where the magic happens.

Below are some common challenges that people face:

Junk food/overeating: Deciding to stop eating too much and the daily action of breaking the bad habit of eating junk food is very common. In fact, many people say they are going to start a more disciplined eating routine every day, fail and try again the next day. They never make any strides in the process.

To keep from failing on this journey, add the new habit of writing down everything you eat or drink. You will find that will make you more disciplined and help you make smarter food choices.

School or work goals: Depending on your future education or work goals, this likely will require a significant amount of time and effort training, studying, attending classes and performing at a level that is satisfactory or competitive.  Daily action is required. 

Deciding to get up every day and be one step closer to graduating or getting into a challenging program requires consistent action. However, you have to be smart and recognize that your mental and physical well-being during what can be a highly stressful training process is reliant on your ability to recover.

Eating well, sleeping well, exercising to reduce stress and learning recovery techniques will benefit you when the days are long, and the to-do list is even longer. Time management and habit-forming have to take place early in the process in order not to fall too far behind the power curve. Training On a Busy Schedule - Balance

Starting a fitness plan: Set a time in each day to do some form of activity. Even if you only walk for 10-15 minutes, do it. Build the habit of taking time for yourself and moving more. This will progress into more activity, feeling better, weight loss and likely will evolve into actually working out.

Depending upon your fitness level and goals, the movement can vary significantly, but the process of starting at a regular time for a particular amount of time will build the habit. Missing these activities/workouts also builds a habit (not a good one).

The Path Toward Success or Mediocrity

Making strides toward your goal actually will require hundreds of daily decisions. It is your decision to take action or not. This is execution at the most basic level -- building persistence and discipline. Once you accept the idea that you will not give in to missing an action day, you will avoid failure and the path toward mediocrity.

Time Will Tell

The days, months and years eventually will reveal how important the decision made today will shape our lives. Deciding to do something is different than taking the action and making yourself better through persistent efforts to accomplish that goal, but it is the first step. If you start today, you will be a different person in one year and maybe create a better life for yourself.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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