The Essential Guide to Taking Action (for Massive Results)

taking-actionYou can continue thinking about what’s best for your life, but it won’t help.

Abstract planning won’t solve your problems.

You’ll get tangled in the vines, trapped in quicksand.

The brain’s a problem-solving machine, constantly computing life’s riddles.

It transports you back in time to solve the past and projects its insecurities into the future while attempting to plan your life in perfect detail.

But its memory is sketchy at best, affected by all kinds of cognitive biases; it’s predictions about the future pure fantasy.

In the present, the mind doesn’t worry. It’s finally still, and action can proceed unhindered.

The Power of Starting

Action bypasses thought, a kill switch for indecision.

So many of us prefer to think about doing rather than doing, which expends twice the effort; the initial mental energy, followed by the physical doing.

And beyond a certain point, the planning becomes redundant, an impediment to action.

Thinking often masquerades as pragmatism.

Logically considering your options soon becomes a delaying tactic, a fear of failure.

The fear of failure is abstract like you’re other thoughts.

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison

The only way you truly fail is by overthinking, not starting and staying still.

Move forward in any direction, and you make progress.

It’s how the Wright brothers won the aviation race, despite having only $1000, against the bigger budgets of larger companies.

Because they were short on money, they did 1900 test flights in one month, whereas the larger firms never proceeded beyond planning.

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” George S. Patton

3 Reasons to Start Taking Action

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1. A Tight Feedback Loop

You quickly learn (through action) what works and what doesn’t, allowing you to tweak your approach accordingly.

You iron out the kinks and become more skilled through practice and repetition, stripping away the inessential through experience.

You learn by doing and drop unproductive approaches with the feedback you gain. Many of the greatest authors in the world weren’t taught how to write the novels we cherish…

They wrote until their fingers cramped and learnt how to craft a captivating story.

2. The Law of Averages

Life’s a numbers game and if you hit enough baseballs, at some point you’ll hit some home runs.

When we were younger we always joked about friends playing the dating numbers game.

They approached so many people, that eventually they were bound to get a telephone number.

You see it in sales. Those who overcome their initial fear and cold call until their voice croaks.

By turning up and doing the work you’re already ahead of the competition.

3. A Powerful Motivator

Action snowballs, and through consistency theory, each step forwards creates greater momentum.

Start exercising today and your self-image changes. You begin to view yourself as someone who exercises, your resistance to action slowly dissolving.

Motivation always follows action…

When you’re motivated, you act more…

When you act more, you’re more successful…

When you’re more successful, you’re more passionate…

And when you’re more passionate, you’re more motivated to continue.

It’s a virtuous circle.

By taking action, quick wins follow, infusing other areas of your life…

When a friend invites you to a party and you’ve had a productive workday, you’re more likely to say yes.

Why You’re Stuck

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It seems so simple, and yet it’s not easy…

Intuitively, we know the activities that contribute positively to our lives, and those that drain us.

Sitting and watching a Netflix for six hours on a Sunday may feel good at the time, but the self-loathing soon kicks in.

You know it would be more nourishing to write, meditate or go running.

So why can’t you start?

Sunk cost fallacy

Sunk cost fallacy means people persist with an unproductive behaviour, situation or course of action.

You continue with an unhappy relationship because of the time you’ve invested.

You keep ploughing money into a sinking business.

You maintain an unhealthy diet because you already feel overweight.

There’s a perverse sunk cost fallacy happening with non-action too.

Maybe you feel too old, or that there isn’t enough time to implement your plan or that it’s too late to start…

But the only guaranteed outcome of not taking action is that there’s zero chance of success.

Don’t allow the time you’ve invested in inaction to justify further inaction.

Starting anything today is better than waiting until tomorrow in order to give yourself a chance of success, however slim.

Perfectionism

Perfectionists are overthinkers. They want to chart the perfect course to their destination…

To account for their effort and be rewarded accordingly.

If reality doesn’t measure up to their perfectly laid plans, they return to the drawing board.

Here’s the thing…

There’s no straight line to success. At best, you point yourself in the general direction and zigzag your way forward.

Imagine driving a car…

It’s tough to turn the steering wheel when you’re stationary.

But in motion, it’s easy.

Even on the straightest roads, you constantly tweak the wheel to stop yourself crashing in a ditch, which is exactly how you should approach your goals.

Decide on a general direction and iterate as you go, in line with the feedback you receive.

The Best Type of Action

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There are two types of action:

1. Being busy, just to fill your time.

The Wall Street syndrome. Being busy for the sake of it.

Always in a rush but never present.

2. Conscious action

Often includes many of the same activities but performed with presence.

Conscious action can include walking, meditation or just sitting mindfully.

Action in this sense is a productive, nourishing activity.

To encourage mindful action is to encourage the right action.

Learning how to appreciate the present moment dissolves the power of the ego, allowing you to see the reality of your situation with greater clarity…

By anchoring yourself with daily meditation, you can calm the swell of emotions, settle your swirling thoughts and take more effective action.

Practising a few minutes each day will bring renewed awareness to your mind, revealing how best to proceed in any given situation, while helping overcome the inertia of taking the first step.

And rather than projecting your hopes and fears onto a potential outcome, you can begin enjoying the process of taking more meaningful action.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie

So go out there and get busy.

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