Maria Rodale

Maria Rodale

My ex-husband once called me a “woman of action.” It was not a compliment. Some people like to change their minds a lot. Some people like to get things done. I like to get things done, even if that means ruffling a few feathers, making big life changes, moving furniture, or taking a stand that may be unpopular or controversial. I couldn’t do my job, couldn’t be the mom that I am, and couldn’t have as much fun if I weren’t a woman of action. I also wouldn’t be making positive differences in the world.

Looking around today, at the news, at what’s going on around the world—whether it’s climate change, war, or economic troubles—it strikes me that we could use a few more women of action. After all, we are the ones who won’t get sucked into all the bullsh*t and will just get things done. Some people enjoy all the talking and arguing and long, drawn-out debates. I can engage in a few of those every once in a while, but as a rule, I’d rather just see results. This is probably why I will never go into politics. (In the time it takes for others to fret, argue, and debate, I’ll have gotten it done twice.)

The great news is more and more women are stepping up to join the Women of Action Club. And by the way, it’s a club that welcomes male members, too. Umm, I mean men. So here are my tips for upping your action quotient and becoming a Woman (or Man) of Action. It’s no guarantee of happiness. It’s just a guarantee of results.

1.    Don’t wait for permission. As women, many of us were raised to be “good girls.” Forget it. You are the boss of you and you don’t report to anyone but yourself, so make up your own mind and decide for yourself what you want and how you want to get it done. Dream it. Say it. Do it.

2.    Take the first step. It can be a little step, but it’s a step forward, not a step back. Maybe it’s speaking out. Maybe it’s making a reservation. Maybe it’s making a change. But it’s something. Something is almost always better than nothing. Nothing real is stopping you from taking the first step. Nothing.

3.    Don’t let fear get in your way. Fear will be your partner, no doubt about it. But over time, as your confidence grows, the fear will lessen. Never let it stop you from doing what you believe to be the right thing! NEVER! Hold hands with your fear, and over time, fear will get smaller and smaller. Just the other week I got up in front of a big crowd and asked President Jimmy Carter a Big Question. My heart was beating fast. But not nearly as fast as the first time I asked questions in public! Now I can look back knowing I didn’t let fear stop me; I asked the question—even if the answer may not have been what I hoped to hear.

4.    Make lists. Sometimes actions can seem overwhelming. I always find it helpful to make lists and break things down into smaller steps. Whether it’s planning a dream vacation, achieving a life goal, or landing a new job, getting organized is key to effective action. Plus, there’s the epic satisfaction of crossing things off the list and looking back at all the steps you accomplished to get you to where you are now.

5.    Don’t give a f@#k about what people say. This is a hard one; it took me a long time to follow this step. And it’s still never easy or not even always doable. But I recently heard President Clinton give this advice: “Never take criticism personally—it’s always more about the person criticizing than it is about you.” He should know. I do believe he’s right. Criticism comes from other people’s fear or frustrations. That doesn’t mean we should ignore what other people say about us; no, we should listen and see if there’s anything we can learn to improve ourselves. But at the end of the day, don’t let critics get you down. If you’re a Woman or Man of Action, people will criticize you and even ridicule you, but while they’ve been doing that, you’ve gotten something done. And that’s what really matters.

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