How to Cultivate a Bias Toward Action

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You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. – Wayne Gretzky

Today I’m writing about something that I have touched on previously, but it’s so important that I’m dedicating an entire post to it. The topic of this post is how to strengthen a bias toward action. A bias toward action means that your natural response is to go from the thinking stage to the doing stage. Many of us, especially introverts and hyper rational types, have a hard time taking action without knowing it’s the best course of action at the time. This sounds great, but truthfully it just isn’t practical. We will never have all of the information we desire to make a decision. In some cases we may not even have half the information we want to make a proper decision. That being said, in many cases we know that taking action will most certainly be more productive than thinking about it a little bit longer. In those cases I’m going to try to persuade you to do what you already know you need to do and create an ongoing habit of taking action.

But why should I take action?

I’m glad you asked that. You don’t have to take action if you don’t want. That being said there are many studies that indicate success in practically everything hinges on your action. This is obvious and you shouldn’t need a study to tell you that. If you think about practicing something but you don’t actually do it, chances are you’re not going to become great at it. If you want any measure of success, which I’m assuming you do if you’re reading this, it’s going to require MASSIVE action. It’s going to require action right now.

Anyone who has studied finances knows that a dollar today is worth more than that same dollar tomorrow. If you were to take that dollar and put it into a bond, equity, or real estate investment you’d likely have more money tomorrow than you did today, and you almost certainly would have more 10 years from now than you do today.  The earlier you invest money the better, as the gains you receive tomorrow amplify the day after that, and so on.  I would argue that the same applies for taking an action you’ve always wanted to take. I’m 31 years old and I constantly kick myself for not doing things I’m doing today 5 to 10 years ago. The reason for this is that I know if I would have started doing the things I’m doing now, I would have seen the exponential growth over the past 5 to 10 years and I’d be sitting much better off than I am now. This also applies to improving yourself. If I would have worked on improving myself 15 years ago, I would have had 15 years of growth to work with that I don’t have now. That being said, there’s no time like the present, as it’s the only time that we’re able to take action, so I try not to think of the past for very long and neither should you.

For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. – C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters

I’m simply pointing out that action today is much more valuable than actions tomorrow. The longer we wait the less valuable those actions are. The business world is full of examples of companies that waited too long to take action. Kodak had a digital camera presented to them in 1975 but couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that anyone would want to look at pictures on a screen (read this article for more on this).  We all know what happened to Blockbuster as a result of not taking action quickly enough to a changing landscape. By now I hope I have you convinced that taking action today is a much better alternative than overthinking and analysis paralysis.

But what action should I take?

I’ve written a few posts about how to define what your goals should be. See my article about writing our own obituary.  I also have a post about why I think you should write your goals everyday. Following the steps outlined in my post about writing your own obituary should help you focus on what you want to achieve in life. It essentially takes you through a 3 step process.

  1. Define Core Values
  2. Define Your Goals
  3. Everyday define small steps to meeting those goals
  4. Do those tasks

I recommend doing the last three daily. Having the basis for your objectives defined and written out should give you the clear direction you need. This will allow you to think less about what you should be doing and take more action on what you should be doing.  This was a big thing for me to overcome, as I’m a classic overthinking but through doing these few things I have developed much better focus, and it has helped me feel less stress because I’m able to take continuous action without questioning what I’m doing all of the time.

Make sure that you set some time to do the last three steps, preferably very early in the morning before all the distractions of life jump in. Right before you go to sleep works as well. Having consistent habits is how you will set yourself up for continuous action. The more regularly you do anything the more it will become easy for you to keep doing it. That’s why I think it’s considerably important to schedule a time to do it every single day.

Ok, I have goals. What are some tips for achieving them?

In reality this is where your grit will come in. You’ll learn how to be grinder if you define your goals, write down steps to achieving them, and then take action every single day. That being said I do have a few tips that will help you take action.

  1. The five second rule – Mel Robbins wrote a book call The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage. In this book it outlines how counting backwards from 5 and taking action after getting to 1 changed her life completely. She outlines why this is proven to work in the book with actual science, but this tip is as easy as 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go. It’s simplicity and emphasis on bias toward action is why I’m including it on the list. Remember it needs to be backwards to zero otherwise you can always count a bit longer.
  2. Schedule the time to do it – I’ve said this at least 15 times, but I’ll say it again. If you don’t know when you’re going to do something, you’re not likely to do it regularly. Envisioning how things will go is a major part of achieving a desired result. In my personal life, if I don’t say which workout I’m going to do in the morning when I wake up and for how long, I have a very bad chance of getting it done. If I have a definitive answer to what I’m going to do when I wake up, there’s a very good chance I’ll do it. Again, make it a habit and soon doing things that push you towards success will become simple.
  3. Don’t get distracted – I have all types of tips for not getting distracted. Not checking your emails or Facebook regularly is a big one (unless you’re checking out The Study of Great on Facebook).  Little things like chewing gum, putting headphones in, getting more sleep, and the pomodoro technique may help you maintain focus as well. If you don’t know what the pomodoro technique is, it’s a simple technique that you give yourself a set amount of time to get something done, set a timer, and then you do everything that you can to make it happen. This is taxing after awhile but it’s kind of fun. There are plenty of techniques for not getting off track and I recommend you keep a running list about what helps you so you can use them regularly.
  4. Motivate yourself with the content you take in– I listen to a lot of audio-books and even Youtube videos that inspire me when I feel like garbage. Sometimes they give me the much needed jolt I need to get back on track. I have a list of the best books that have helped me maintain my focus in the article I wrote earlier about my most influential books. Please check them out. They have been more valuable to me than my learning in my MBA has been.  Obviously following The Study of Great is also a great way to stay motivated!
  5. Audit your results – This is something that I don’t do enough but when I do it helps hold me accountable. Whatever you wrote down to do from the previous day should be checked off your list. If it isn’t, don’t beat yourself, simply write it on your list the next day. It’s important to understand why you didn’t hit objectives so you can hit them in the future. Sometimes not hitting objectives simply means that you wrote too much down to do. It also can mean there’s distractions that caused you to not be able to accomplish as much as you had hoped for. Either way, realizing how far you have come is a big motivator to continue on. If you’ve done this for a fitness program you know just how motivating progress can be.
  6. Learn how you work – I can tell you until I’m blue in the face what works for me, but the most important thing is that you know yourself. This is why I make a detailed schedule for myself on things that work for me, and as I find things that don’t work or do work, I change my schedule accordingly. If a company has a great process for making a widget, they document the process so that everyone follows the best practice. As soon as something better is discovered, they change the process to the new best practice. This is the basis for continuous improvement and it’s one that you should implement in your life. If you want to see my template for life, just ask and I’ll send it to you. I keep mine in a Word document for easy editing and printing on a daily basis. This is a great way of you defining what works for you and tweak it until it’s perfect.

Ok, that list turned out to be a lot longer than I’d hoped it’d be, but once you get going on producing results regularly I think you’ll enjoy it and you’ll become as passionate as I am about getting things done. It becomes an addicting thing to see your goals get knocked down one by one. I hope this post helps motivate you to get after it today and achieve everything you dream about achieving. Thanks, as always, for reading and remember to take action and be great today!

Robert Krickeberg

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