Don’t Do This in 2019!

There’s a subtle mistake that I’ve made thousands of times in my life, and I want to share the simple solution for it. Parts of this post are going to sound a little weird, but I think this is really going to click for some people.

Here’s the mistake: When I feel as if I’m falling short in an area, I’ll sometimes go into deep analysis mode, starting with questions like…

“Why haven’t I been exercising?”

“Why haven’t I been writing?”

It’s usually a good idea to ask yourself why you do (or don’t do) things, but in many cases—including the two examples above—this is a dead end, counterproductive question. Do you know why?

It’s because there’s only one solution to the problems above, and asking yourself these questions won’t get you any closer to it! What’s the solution, then?

Go! Start! Take action! Do those things!

Before I explain further, I want to clarify that there is a time and place for strategizing, digging into details of what (de)motivates you, and figuring out what stops you from doing things. Without that, I’d have never discovered the many “tricks” like mini habits that have changed my life.

The times you ask yourself a question (e.g., “Why haven’t I been exercising?”) are usually the times you want to take action. But when you ask yourself why you’ve been failing in an area, you fall into a few devastating traps.

“Why Traps”: When Asking Why is the WRONG Move

  1. When you ask why you haven’t been doing XYZ, you imply that there is something that is currently blocking you from taking action in that area. But ask yourself… is there really? Has there been something explicitly blocking you, or have you just not done it? In roughly 99.999% of cases, there is literally nothing blocking you from taking action right now. You are completely free to move forward and that’s all you need to know. Otherwise, it’s like asking yourself why you can’t speak when you haven’t tried opening your mouth and speaking. It doesn’t make sense.
  2. If the issue is mental and/or emotional, analysis rarely helps and sometimes hurts. Put another way, you can analyze why you aren’t working out in 300 ways, write a 500-page thesis on it, and deliver the most rousing speech about it to an audience of one million people. Great… but you still haven’t exercised. Analysis didn’t fix the problem!

This is the time to shut off the analytical part of your brain (that’s 96% of my brain) and just start moving towards your goal. 

Emotional Change

One of the most interesting pieces of information I shared in the Mini Habit Mastery Video Course was from a habit journal study. They had participants report emotional change, and they attributed the emotional change to a thought or action. Actions were reported to change emotions twice as much as thoughts (66% to 34%). Consider that we have experience many more thoughts than actions, so the 2-to-1 ratio is even more lopsided than it seems in favor of action.

This is not coincidental. Actions have a much stronger impact than thoughts.

We’ve all had thoughts that we haven’t acted upon, but every action we’ve taken counts and has positive or negative consequences in our lives. Your brain intuitively picks up on this pattern, and for the most part correctly places more weight on things you are doing vs things you are thinking. When it comes to emotional change, this is ideal, because instead of having to struggle against negative thoughts, we can simply continue to take positive action to automatically change our emotions and thoughts now and over time.

But Aren’t All Actions Preceded By Thoughts? Doesn’t That Mean Thoughts Matter More?

Mostly yes to the first question… and no to the second question.

We do think before action. It’s not all that common to take a 100% brainless action (insert several jokes here). But the key distinction lies within the style of thinking we have.

The best thoughts for action are thoughts like…

  • Just do it
  • Move forward now
  • Take this small step and see what happens

They all share the common trait of quickly moving past the thought stage. The goal isn’t to precisely form your thoughts into perfectly-worded, poetic works of art that drive you to the gym on a cloud. Your job is to get to the action stage as soon as possible. You’re trying to minimize your thought-process before action.

Deep Strategy, Fast Action

When strategizing about your goals and life, it’s good to do a deep analysis of what you want and the best ways to get there. Reading and reflecting on books and articles like this is a good example of this phase. There absolutely is a need for this in your life, as this serves as your GPS.

But when you take deep analysis into the action part of your life (which is the BULK of your life), you slow down and convolute what should be fast and simple.

Don’t Look Back, Look Forward

What cliche advice, right? But think about it in the context we’ve been discussing.

You can look back to why you haven’t been exercising, cleaning, or working on your side project.

Or you can begin doing those things right now. I bet you have already strategized all the tools you need to begin action on them. Feel resistance? Focus on the very first step and force yourself to take it. Go! Simplify and move forward quickly. Here’s a great rule of thumb that sums it up…

Never analyze why you hadn’t done something earlier when you can do it right now.

The reasons we don’t act can range from distraction to discouragement, but they don’t matter if you can move forward now. This is so often the answer that seems elusive because we fail to distinguish between when we should think and when we should act.

The message of my books and courses is basically what I’ve said here. A mini habit trains us to shorten the thought-to-action process. It shows us that helpful actions don’t require deep thought and mental voodoo to perform.

So what’s stopping you from taking action? Nothing. Your mind is the only thing that can stop you, but now you know what to do. I hope you can see now that it’s actually easier to take action than you may have thought.

Maybe the only reason you’ve ever been stuck is because you assumed you were stuck and wasted all of your time and energy to figure it out. You’re not actually stuck, you’re looking for a ditch you’re not actually in! If you do that long enough, you’ll spend all your time looking for the imaginary ditch instead of moving forward with your dreams.

Isn’t that why the cause for inaction can seem so mysterious? The root cause for inaction is simply… inaction. Let’s stop digging and looking for deeper roots when the answer is simply one step forward into action.

Know when to analyze and strategize, and know when to shorten your thought process and jump into action. If you feel stuck, you’re probably overthinking things. Just go.

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