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Do You Want to BE Something or DO Something?

There is time for everything that you really care about! So what’s stopping us? Each day we make choices about how we spend our time, mostly relying on our routines to get us through the day. Some of our routines are really useful and purposeful, like exercising for our health; others are big time-wasters, like watching television for hours every night. It can be hard to force ourselves out of our tried-and-true mind-numbing routines to make better use of our lives.  That’s why we need some inspiration to get ourselves motivated.

My inspiration comes from the title question, one of twelve questions from the Campaign Boot Camp public service fitness test. “Do you want to be something or do something?” means to look beyond yourself and apply your strengths to something you care deeply about — to take action.

7 Ways to Get Motivated

1. Spend 15 minutes a day focusing on something you care about. Make a pact with yourself that you will take this time EVERY day. Do you have an idea for something you’ve always wanted to do but just never find the time to get started? A business idea, a public service idea, something involving friends or family? Take fifteen minutes and write down as much of your idea as you can.  Keep adding to it every day. Eventually, you’ll see your idea turn into a solid plan of action. Slowly is better than not at all. Focus on one thing at a time.

2. Volunteer. Share your time and expertise with a cause you care about. Or better yet, start your own cause. One Brick is a good way to jump-start your volunteering — they offer no-commitment one-time volunteering opportunities with a social twist in many communities including the San Francisco Bay Area. Do you want to learn a new skill or practice an existing skill? Either way, being a volunteer is a good way to do it. Contact your favorite organizations and propose how you can help them.

3. Take a class. Full disclosure — this is my default response to everything. For me, the biggest benefit of a class is that it’s prescribed time devoted to doing the thing you’re learning about. I also like the interaction of hearing others’ ideas and being able to ask questions.  You make a commitment to do the work when you take a class; while reading a book or just figuring it out on your own gives you too much room to procrastinate. Of course, classes are still only a means to an end. You’ve got to take what you learn and apply it.

4. Try something new. What’s the one thing you want to do but you never quite manage to find the time or courage to do? If you’re hesitant, get a friend to join you — or simply to encourage you. If it’s finding time, mark a date in your calendar today. Woody Allen says, “80% of success is showing up.”

5.  Hijack your routine. Instead of watching TV tonight, take one hour and do something different — take a walk, go to an event, visit a museum, talk to a friend, have a game night, work on your business plan, or start a blog. A co-worker explained the religious observance of Lent to me this way twenty years ago and it has always stuck with me: It’s not about giving something up. It’s about getting out of your routine to see your life in a new way.

6. Choose a monthly focus. You have twelve opportunities to focus on something you care about. For example, my goal is to rekindle my love of music, so that will be my focus in August. I’m going to listen to my favorite music every day on my way to work and while I’m cooking, and I’ll discover new music at the library.  I will go to at least one concert and I will learn more about a favorite composer by reading a book or watching a movie. In How to Be Happy at Work, Leslie reminded us that “it takes 21 days to make a (good or bad) habit, so be persistent.”

7. Take a trip. It’s amazing how clear things become when you get yourself out of your daily routine. Vacations are one of those rare times when we truly get away. If we’re lucky, we’re completely immersed in the present moment and we come back refreshed and renewed. Be sure to capture all your new perspectives and ideas for when you return.

“I always knew I wanted to become somebody when I grew up. Now I realize I should have been more specific.”— Lily Tomlin

Now It’s Your Turn

1. Check out Christine Pelosi’s book Campaign Boot Camp: Basic Training for Future Leaders. Even if you’re not interested in public service, she offers practical advice on leadership, team-building, negotiation and communication. Or, take her class Public Service Leadership Boot Camp at UC Berkeley Extension ( in the fall and spring semesters.

2. Do something meaningful one evening a week (or even one evening a month) to get yourself started.

3. Read these articles:

You Are What You Do All Day from Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog

Realizing Your Potential from Innovations blog (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Which of these ideas would you try? Do you have a motivating idea to share?