The Action Habit: 7 Proven Ways to Move from Deciding to Doing

Chris Shilling is the founder of Serve and Lead and an author, speaker, consultant, and leadership coach. You can download the latest e-book in his Learn and Lead series here. You can also follow Chris and Serve and Lead on Twitter and Facebook.

 

I have a simple math question for you.

5 frogs are sitting on a log.

4 of the frogs decide to jump off. How many frogs are left?

Did you answer 1?

The correct answer is still 5.  This is because there is a difference between deciding and doing.

 

Have you experienced this in your own life? We tend to make a lot of decisions. We decide to eat healthier, get another degree, or start a new business. However, all of these decisions really mean nothing.

In order to make a decision mean anything, we need to take action. 

This concept is so simple, yet most people never move from deciding to doing. They do not get into the habit of taking action and do not accomplish all they could be accomplishing. By getting into the habit of putting ideas and decisions into action, we are in a better position to achieve the results we desire.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts; your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your values; your values become your destiny.” –Unknown

Here are 7 proven ways you can move from deciding to doing:

1. Stop waiting until conditions are perfect.

If you are waiting for everything to be perfect in order to get started you will be waiting forever. Things will never be perfect. There will always be something that is not right or could be better. There is no perfect time; there is only the present time. You must take action now and you can make adjustments as you move along. I know the perfect time to start was last year. The second best time is right now.

 

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” -Chinese Proverb

 

2. Stop, get up, and do it.

Turn yourself into a doer. A doer is someone who has an idea and moves forward with it immediately. Have you ever said to anyone, “It is a great day to go to the beach,” and then sat around and watched TV? Next time stop, get up, and go do it. Do you want to begin exercising or present a new idea at work? Do it today. When we pause and wait, we lose the will to move forward and allow doubt to creep into our minds.

 

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” –Amelia Earhart

 

3. Stop over-thinking things

When we over-think things, we start to get paralysis of analysis. We start to analyze things to the point that we cannot move forward. We obsess over how conditions aren’t perfect, question the amount of time we have to commit, or come up with a whole host of reasons not to move forward.

 

4. Take continuous action.

Once you get started, continue to take continuous action. Make sure that you keep your momentum going by doing something productive related to your idea every day. This can be as easy as scheduling time to spend 15 minutes completing a small task daily. Those small tasks will add up quickly, and help you build confidence by seeing achievement.

Embrace the Chaos

Are you overworked?  Stressed?  Worried about money, health, family, your job?

Instead of running from the chaos, what if the answer was to embrace it?

Bob Miglani is a senior director at a Fortune 50 company in New York City. He came to the US from India in 1979, and grew up running his family’s Dairy Queen business. He is the author of two books: Embrace the Chaos: How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living and Treat Your Customers.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to him about his journey from “overwhelmed” to “embracing the chaos.”

You cannot control the chaos.  You can control you. -Bob Miglani

 

The very first chapter of Embrace the Chaos: How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living starts with a powerful statement:  “You cannot control the chaos.  You can control you.”  A business trip back to India taught you this in a fresh way.  What’s the story of how chaos in India influenced this book?

There was a period of my life where I was stuck.  With so much uncertainty in my job, career, unpredictability of life and the speed of it all made me freeze.  I looked to the future, and every path in front of me looked worse than the other.

9781609948252It was a chance invitation to India that led me to rediscover how to move forward when we’re faced with so much uncertainty.

India is full of uncertainty and unpredictability.  Go to a business meeting, travel on the dilapidated roads or visit a tourist destination and things have a way of going wrong.  It’s easy to find yourself in a place where you have no control and everything seems to be falling apart.

There were a few times that this occurred to me, which I talk about in my book.  It was after these events that I came to this profound realization that so much of our stress and anxiety about the future rests on this perceived notion that we have control over everything.  But the truth is that we don’t.  We can’t control our customers, our bosses or our colleagues.  I have a tough enough time trying to control my kids; so to think that I can possibly control all these other aspects of life is fruitless.

We should stop trying to control those things because that’s what causes us stress and worry about the future. Instead, we should try to control ourselves – our thoughts and our actions. Taking action and moving forward in life gives us that certainty.  That’s what I learned from India, where I met so many others who were working, engaging and living fully.

Bob Miglani

Usually we do everything in our power to create a planned, organized life.  And yet life doesn’t work that way.  Accepting and adapting to circumstances beyond our control is another area you explore in your book.  How do you develop that mindset?

When things don’t go according to plan is often the time when we grow the most because we rediscover the resiliency that we have deep inside of ourselves.  Understanding that for true growth to happen in our business, in our relationships and in our lives, we have to let go of our notion of a perfect plan.  We have to shift our thinking and our own skills rather than direct attention to the problem that might have occurred.

Learning to develop that mindset isn’t easy, but it is possible. One way to cultivate acceptance is to put ourselves in challenging situations, either by setting hard-to-reach goals or taking on tough assignments or projects.  What this does is force us to realize that our actions are what matters, what we did when we faced uncertainty, not that we fought the change but how we adapted to the change.

Would you share one of the stories from your book?  I immediately think about you catching the bus with your cousin, Vivek.  What did that teach you?

I was in India with my cousin Vivek, and I had asked him to take me on a typical bus that he takes to work because I wanted to do what the locals do: take a bus to work.  On my insistence, he agreed.

While we were waiting for the bus, I heard him say, ”OK. Start running.”  I looked over to my right and saw this completely full bus barreling down the dirt road.  Passengers were hanging to the sides of the bus using their fingernails and sometimes parts of the arms inside the window.  The bus driver had no intention of stopping as there was simply no room.  So what people do is to run along and somehow wedge themselves into the huge pile on the bus.

There’s no way I was getting on that bus, I thought.  It was just too full.  There had to be a bus that was less full; so I’d wait for the next one.