How to Get Your Act Together and Accomplish Your Goals « Pun Intended
Written by Bamboo Forest

Illustration by chris-supernerd

We’ve all heard the benefits of writing to-do lists. We’ve heard how effective they can be for getting things done. And frankly, I agree…

But there’s an element within fulfilling goals, that’s far deeper and more profound than to-do lists, and it takes place in no other moment then the one you’re in, right now.

I’m not advocating one should dispense with the to-do list. I am however, emphasizing where your endless list of things that need to get done, actually do get done.

Envision Yourself at Your Best

Think of yourself at your very best, at the top of your game. What enters your mind? Probably, you’re accomplishing myriads of feats, employing good habits and getting things done. But this is only partly true. Look a little deeper and realize, it’s equally as accurate to say your success can be broken down to a single moment.

Just like happiness, productivity is a state; not a destination. Getting to the destination is about what you do now, not what you do later. There is no later.

Lao Tzu says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Traversing those thousand miles is all a process that unfolds in a now moment. Your greatest accomplishments are no greater than the sum of its parts. If you can remember this, you can infuse your present moments with far greater power than if you were to think of accomplishments as things. They aren’t things; they are present moments utilized wisely.

There’s no such thing as a thousand miles traveled. It can be found nowhere in the universe. You could look under every rock and stone, and find it – you never will. A thousand miles traveled is instead a present moment; accomplished in the only place one lives, here and now.

A River Only Focuses On its Current Position

I’ve never seen river water moving along, get distressed over where it needs to be a mile later. Its goal is to reach the ocean. But if you look closely at the water, it’s only focused on its present action, holding no distraction of where it needs to end up. It focuses only on the moment it’s currently involved in.

Amazingly, river water in all its history has always made it to its destination. It does so devoid of ever fretting over areas of the river it hasn’t yet reached. That’s the secret to how river water always ends up making it to the sea. It simply doesn’t think about where it needs to be later; it only thinks about what it must do now. And ultimately, the river finds itself splashing into the ocean.

We can apply the wisdom of the river to anything. Dish washing is a good way to demonstrate this.

If you have a pile of dishes, don’t focus on the pile. While cleaning a dish, don’t get distracted by the others. Why get distracted? More importantly, how will getting distracted assist you with the dish you’re currently working on?

In an interview, Dr. Wayne Dyer said in reference to accomplishments:

“You don’t have to be thinking big about something . . . You just do what you can in this moment. That’s how great things get done, by thinking small rather than thinking big . . . Your relationship to life is really your relationship to the present moment. How good are you at being in this moment and being fulfilled in this moment?”

Similar to an example Dr. Dyer used, if you’re on a diet, it’s not about eating a certain way for 6 weeks; it’s about eating a certain way in the moment you’re in. If you were to reflect on the 6 weeks you committed yourself to – you’d likely get into the pantry and start eating everything in sight.

Getting your act together isn’t about accomplishing fifty million things. It’s about doing one thing, with the proper mindset.

You can be at peace in this moment of doing. Spread your mind over the illusion of all that needs to be done and feel the walls cave in.

Remember, there are no walls and there isn’t a lot to get done. There is only now and your application in this now and not a single thing else.

Illustration by clspeace

27 Responses to “How to Get Your Act Together and Accomplish Your Goals”
  1. Writer Dad says:

    Beautiful, straightforward, and simple. You didn’t make me laugh, but you did make me think.

  2. This is a very interesting approach to productivity. I will need to think about it a little more, but I think I like it. When you calmly focus on the task at hand instead of frantically running around trying to accomplish the 100 things on your list, you are certainly going to be more productive – and happier too, I might add.

  3. Bamboo,

    This is one of your best. Simply yet elegantly written.

  4. Ari Koinuma says:

    Good point. So that’s what was on your mind last night?

    My hero Philip Toshio Sudo says the same thing in his book “Zen Guitar.” Just do what you are doing right now. Do it as well as you can. Then repeat.


  5. Fantastic post Bamboo Forest and very very wise. The periods in my life when I have been focused on the present and living each day minute by minute have been the best and happiest times of my life. The first year of my son’s life when he and I lived in a little bubble of love and joy and I spent all my time either watching him, feeding him or going for long weeks along the coast road. Such a heavenly time because I allowed myself that year to just be a mum and enjoy him.

    I think this is also part of why I like backpacking because when I’m on the road the only thing going on inside my head is how to navigate a new city or get to know new friends better or the feel of hot sand on my back. I don’t exist except in that moment. I am happiest when I’m on the road and I believe there is a real link there between my ability to stay present and be happy.

    Lately I have been feeling very flat and surprise surprise, I have also been worried about the future – where I’m going, what I want etc…

    There’s a lesson here, but the question is will I embrace it?

    Kelly ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. What a great reminder to just be still. I’m off to do the dishes… one dish and one fork and one cup at a time.

  7. @Ari Koinuma: Funny thing, I wonder if pop stars read that and forgot the “do as well as you can” part.

    @Bamboo: Thanks for this. I’ve been focusing more and more on how to get things done rather than getting to the end result. This put it into perspective for me.

  8. Scott McIntyre says:

    This is such a relaxed and calming piece of writing, Bamboo.

    It’s a nice antidote to the frantic pace of life that productivity theory tries to solve…

    Thank you for the thoughts you convey.

  9. @ Writer Dad: Glad to give you something to ponder.

    @ Vered: Well said. I think so.

    @ Shilpan: Thank you.

    @ Ari: I’ll have to look up that book you speak of. Sounds interesting.

    @ Kelly: I like your backpacking example. I think I would enjoy such an excursion myself. Thanks for the kind words.

    @ Stacey: Yes. That’s the way dishes should be done!

    @ Matthew: Glad this information was valuable for you.

    @ Scott: My pleasure. Glad you enjoyed it.

  10. raquel says:

    This was nice to read. With so many influences telling us where we should be, we often forget where we are and what to do there.

  11. Tim Brownson says:

    I love old Wayne he’s brilliant, but I’m not sure if I agree with him

    If you never about doing great things how do you know what to do in the moment to get you there?

    Isn’t it about getting the balance right?

  12. @ Raquel: I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    @ Tim: When we do great things, and accomplish greatness, it is the present moment contributions that got us there. You can’t look back and pick out any one big thing you did to get yourself to that big thing. You can only see a bunch of present moments utilized wisely. Hence Lao Tzu’s great quote.

    Nevertheless, you make a very fine point. I agree… There does need to be reflection on what you want to get done. My point wasn’t that you don’t look at the big picture and ask yourself where you want to go. It was only to realize that once you’ve figured out what you want to do – that the doing is in this moment and no other. That getting there is the sum of many parts. Many present moments used well.

    We should see each moment as an opportunity to contribute.

    So, I think what Wayne meant in terms of thinking small, is thinking within the moment of what you have to do now. Not spreading your mind over many things, when your behavior can’t do that anyways. Ones behavior can only perform here, now. I think that was his emphasis. Not that we don’t also think about the big picture. For, of course we have to.

    As you say, if we don’t know what we want to do, then how can we use our present moments wisely? Very true.

    But once that big picture is understood, it’s best to focus on the task at hand.

    In a book of his that I’m almost done with, “Your Erroneous Zones” there are frankly quite a few things he says I don’t agree with. I suppose this is very common with self improvement books. But, there is enough really great meat in the book that I do agree with, that I’m inspired by, that makes my reading of his work very worthwhile.

  13. Tim Brownson says:

    Good answer BF.

    I think you should write a post ‘Things That Wayne Dyer Got Wrong” Seriously, I’m not kidding, it would be a hoot and very provocative.

    BTW, my wife original thought I called Wayne Dyer, D’Wayne Dyer and ever since then has called him that. D’Wayne doesn’t quite sound right for the shoeless one.

  14. BC Doan says:

    Bamboo Forest,

    My favorite part is: “Getting your act together isnโ€™t about accomplishing fifty million things. Itโ€™s about doing one thing, with the proper mindset.” Thanks!

  15. Lance says:

    Well-said my friend. It’s about being in the now. Doing what needs to be done at this very moment, not what we need to do for the next six weeks.

  16. SpaceAgeSage says:

    I have a conflict to solve, some miles to travel, and a wedding to shoot as a photographer today, and my to-do list was hanging over my head. Your post made me stop, take a deep breath, and re-connect with the moment, the now. Thanks!

  17. NaTuRaL says:

    I use to-do lists and I actually find it to be quite helpful…I also work better when I have a schedule…right now I’m supposed to be cleaning and I’m sitting down…had i followed my schedule I’d be accomplishing something…well I am doing something, but not what I’m supposed to be.

    I have highs and lows with my productivity. I am at peace though in the moment I’m in. ๐Ÿ™‚ The work will get done.

  18. Tabbie says:

    A wise and truthful post. I have learned long ago exactly what you have written. Your post is a good reminder to me, for sometimes I forget.

  19. @ Tim: That’s an interesting idea. “Dwayne Dyer,” heh.

    @ BC Doan: You’re welcome. Thanks for the kind words.

    @ Lance: Indeed indeed.

    @ SpaceAgeSage: Welcome. Thanks for sharing.

    @ Natural: You have a good attitude.

    @ Tabbie: I forget too.

  20. Hi Bamboo,

    I love the quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer. It’s so true (as is most of what he writes). It’s when we start looking at the BIG picture we begin to feel overwhelmed and often just give up.

  21. Linda Abbit says:

    I have been doing yoga for the last three years, and it has helped me to “slow down” and focus more on the Now in my life.

    However, I still keep a To Do list handy. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Beautifully stated, and I like the images you chose as well. Stumbled.

  22. @ Linda: Thank you for the kind words. Thank you for the stumble. To do lists can be very effective. Just be in the moment when you do your to-do list ๐Ÿ˜‰

  23. Wonderful concept; I’ve always said, “The river wanders, but it is never really lost”.

  24. @ TheRiverWanders: Thank you. Rivers are indeed inspiring.

  25. Liz D says:

    I was reading your article and thinking about what great advice this is, and then i realized that in a way, I already do this.

    I am a teenager working at a clothing store, and I am often assigned to the task of organizing & tidying-up a specific section. This includes folding shirts, making stacks of pants neat, fixing clothes on hangers- for a long time, I’d look at a particularly messy section and not know where to begin. I’d just start cleaning, trying to do everything at once and thinking about how awfully messy this place was. It would take me a long time to finish everything, and I’d get stressed.

    But then, I figured out a very efficient method to solve this problem. Every time I encountered a messy area, I picked a pattern. For instance, I said to myself, “I’ll do the wall shelves first, then the hanging, then the t-shirt table,” and I’d do it in order.

    The trick? Since I knew what my pattern and goal was, I was able to just focus on cleaning one shelf at a time without worrying about what came next instead of frantically fixing anything I laid my eyes on.

    My job is so much easier and relaxing now…people think I’m weird when I tell them that I think folding piles of shirts is actually very meditative…

    now, I just need to learn how to apply this to homework…!

  26. @ Liz: What a great way to fulfill your work duties. Yes, you indeed already use this advice and thank you so much for sharing.

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