Applying Positive Psychology to the Action-Taking Process

Here are some suggestions for fortifying your neural connections through action.

Small doable goals. As optimists we tend to set BIG ambitious goals. The result is that we overwhelm our brains and shut them down before we even get started. Instead, outsmart your brain—select a small goal that is very doable. Make sure the goal matters to you. Because if it doesn’t, it probably won’t make it to the top of your to-do-list, will it?

One small doable action. With your doable goal in mind, identify ONE small doable action that you can take in the next 24 hours to get going on the goal. Timing is everything when it comes to taking action on new learning. Research shows that the longer you wait, the more the old strong neural connections (e.g., thoughts and habits) take over again. Pretty soon the new ideas and intended actions are dim memories. Think of your new neural connections as underdogs that need every bit of help they can get.

Reward yourself for your progress. Our brains love rewards. Pick what’s rewarding for you. (e.g., mental or physical pat on the back, check it off your to-do list, tell someone you did it, take a walk, play a game, talk with a friend, anything that brings you pleasure).

Follow up with another small action. After you’ve rewarded yourself, identify another small action to take that will help you make progress toward your goal. if you are trying to establish a new habit or ritual, this might be the same small action you took earlier. Or, it might be a new action that will help you achieve the goal that matters to you.

Small actions. Accomplish your goal through lots of small actions. Research shows that we love to make progress. (Is there anything more satisfying than checking something off your list?). Small actions and goals give us lots of opportunities to make progress.

Make small actions a habit. Make a habit of identifying and taking small actions. Then reward yourself. Chunking what you want to accomplish into small manageable bites is the easiest way to get things done. Rewarding yourself keeps you going.