Take action without stopping.

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Have you ever been plagued by inaction because you’ve convinced yourself what you’re doing is impossible?

The feeling is similar to what I wrote about here. You’re filled with worries about never reaching your goal, and you think that whatever you’re trying to do is “just too hard” for you at least. Even if many others have achieved what you want, you will be the one unable to figure it out.

You’ve lost faith in yourself, and this is a toxic mental space to be in.

Personally, I feel like this when I’ve been sitting around for too long, thinking about where I want to go, instead of doing something about it.

Doing something, anything is always better than sitting around doing nothing. Even if you don’t know what the next right move is, just do something that might take you one step forward.

In his book No Shortcuts to the Top, Ed Viesturs describes his journey to climb all the 8,000 meter peaks in the world.

He says to focus on the smallest possible task right in front of you. When he was climbing a mountain, he would only look at the next rock outcropping, and focus on getting there. Then the next bend in the trail, then the next rock outcropping, etc.

Before he knew it, he’d be standing at the top of K2, or Mount Everest, or any of the other peaks. He knew if he thought about getting to the top of the mountain, he would go insane. From base camp, it was impossible to contemplate standing on the summit because too many obstacles stood in the way.

He’d be frozen in inaction, too busy worrying about how to solve problems that had nothing to do with taking one more step forward.

You should only worry about a problem if it’s standing directly in your path. Many times, you’ll find the obstacles you were worried about don’t materialize. Other problems do, but they’re ones you could not have predicted.

There is magic in this approach. By focusing on the smallest possible sub-component, you don’t allow your mind to wander into all of the what-ifs that can happen at any stage in the journey. It’s a form of being present. 

Incessant worrying will paralyze you. As Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

So how do you apply this to your life?

We’re all lazy, so doing nothing is the default state of most people. Doing nothing and complaining about how the situation is unfair, too hard, or any other number of things that won’t help you make any progress.

Just take action, and focus on taking action every day.

Try taking action every single day for at least 2 weeks. A few things are going to happen during this period:

  • For the first couple of days, taking action will be easy, and you’ll feel invigorated.
  • You’ll hit a day where you’re short on time or exhausted, and you’ll want to fall back into stagnation.
  • You’ll tell yourself it’s okay. You’ve taken action for the previous 2 days after all, and you can afford to take a day off.

But realize this is your mind playing tricks on you.

Momentum is incredibly important in anything you try to do. It’s exponentially easier to take action on the 5th day than it is on the 1st day. If you take day number 3 off, you’ll have to start over again on day number 4. This time, you won’t have the invigorated feeling you had on day number 1, and you might not have the will power to continue at all.

But if you continue and don’t allow yourself to make excuses, even if it makes you tired and forces you to sacrifice sleep, you’ll find yourself feeling incredible a week into the cycle.

At least that’s what happens to me. Pretty soon I forget about the result I’m going for completely, and all I care about is taking action. I become obsessed with taking action, and my brain gives me wonderful emotions for doing so.

When you reach the point where you feel like you could take action forever because the feeling you get from doing that is better than the result, then you’ve made it.

You might even find the result takes care of itself when all you’re focusing on is taking action.

Now, there are some forms of “taking action” that don’t count. The most egregious of these is:

  • Reading about what you’re trying to do. This can be on the internet, in books, etc.

Now, if you have no idea about what you’re trying to do, then reading might be okay, but I see far too many people get bogged down filling their brains with information without doing anything. Reading is easy and it makes you feel good. It feels like you’re doing something productive and it increases your knowledge.

But many times, theoretical knowledge is useless without intuition, and you only develop intuition by trying things and screwing them up. When you hit a road block, then it’s okay to pick up a book and look for a solution to your problem. It’s much better than getting general information that may not help you at all or that doesn’t apply in your situation.

So in summary, take action. Focus on taking action every day for a set period of time. Build momentum. Don’t allow yourself to worry about anything except taking one step forward. Don’t spend too much time reading without doing something practical to further your goal.

Photo Credit: Efrén