“It’s no use waiting for your ship to come in, unless you’ve sent one out.”
Well, here we are. The fourth and final episode of the audacious series How to Change Your Life. This is the action end of it, so let’s get straight down to biznes.
What do we really have here?
I’ve said a bunch of warm, fuzzy stuff about feeling good and letting go and going with the flow. Perhaps that’s comforting to you. Perhaps it stimulated your curiosity or your spiritual awareness. Ahh… sweet bliss.
But! you protest. This series is called How to Change Your Life. So far you haven’t shown me how to change anything besides the way I feel.
Well, leaving aside for a moment that how you feel is the single most important factor in your quality of life—you’re quite right. I haven’t. So I’m going to rectify that right now.
In this fourth and final installment we’ll look at the missing piece of the puzzle. The link between thinking and acting and how to actually effect massive change in your physical reality.
How to get sh$t done
I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the secret key to effecting massive change in the world. It’s all the rage. Everybody’s talking about it. It’s like really, really popular among the movers and shakers.
It’s called taking action.
And if I hear one more thing about it, I’m going to take some decisive action of my own on that mother!#%*&er.
Blahdy blah, blah, blah. We all know taking action is the key to change. But what is the key to taking action? After all, if it were really that simple we’d all be Tony Robbins or Gary Vaynerchuk.
Action is great when—like the guys I just mentioned—you’re already in the zone. But if you’re not in the zone, all the rhetoric about powering through and working your ass off does more harm than good. It just exacerbates your sense of frustration. So, let’s get back to the fundamentals. Starting right here:
“Um: what is an action, anyhow?”
Thinking is the new acting
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason so few engage in it.”
Does action mean physical effort?
Perhaps it did, once upon a time; when word traveled in weeks rather than seconds and progress meant a backbreaking taming of the elements. But in our increasingly connected, digital world the flaw in that line of reasoning is becoming blatantly apparent. Namely: that you can actually get an enormous amount of stuff done these days without physically moving very much at all.
It’s true that some goals are intrinsically physical in nature (e.g. get in shape). And when you have a physical goal, you’re going to require some physical action to get there. But most goals are not intrinsically physical.
Career goals, relationship goals, financial goals, spiritual goals, creative goals: none of these things are intrinsically physical. They are intellectual and emotional. There may be a physical component to them; but that component is incidental rather than essential. And the actions involved have that same characteristic.
Is sitting down to write a blog post an action? It must be, since it produces a tangible result. Yet the work you’re doing is all mental. It’s just thinking. So where exactly is the action?
Is saying “I quit” an action? You bet it is. It’s an incredibly transformative action. But it’s not articulating the words that’s difficult—that’s trivial. What’s difficult to do is getting over the emotional resistance to what that means.
But if so much of action actually boils down to thinking—what is the difference between taking action and just thinking about it? What exactly is an action, if not the physical motion?
“An action is a thought that meets another mind.”
Take a moment to let the full significance of that idea explode in your brain—because it is significant. That statement is the key to transforming your world.
You can craft the most inspired, genius thoughts the world has ever known. You can create the most magnificent works of art. You can invent solutions to the world’s most desperate needs—all in your own mind.
But it’s only when you involve others that you’re taking action.
Thus, what action really means is:
Taking action means communicating. Taking massive action means communicating massively. It means involving other people. Making a call. Publishing a message. Putting yourself ‘out there’. Reaching out to people. Sometimes you’ll need to be in a certain place at a certain time to deliver that communication; to make that connection. That’s the physical aspect. But what makes the difference is the message you’re delivering.
That’s what action is.
Action is the projection of your thought to another mind. And for every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction. Or, we might say, a reciprocal action.
And this makes complete sense because:
“Everything you want comes from other people.“
What you really want is happiness. And happiness is always an inside job. You can do that all by yourself.
But all the trappings of success that you imagined would accompany your happiness—the wealth, the fun, the appreciation… Everything you’re trying to get. Everything you think will make you happy. Everything you wish for the world. All the rich variety of life—all of that comes from other people.
So involve them!
Inspired action versus the other kind
…But not right away. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that more action creates better results. What you want is not more action, but more powerful action. Action alone is not transformative—it’s communicative. What’s transformative is your thought: the engine behind the action.
And this explains why taking action often seems so hard to do. If an action is a thought that meets another mind—and the thoughts you’re thinking are resistant—then it’s hardly surprising that you have trouble getting yourself to take action. It’s even less surprising that your life isn’t changing very much.
When an action isn’t powered by a radical, inspired though, it’s not transformative—it’s just routine. Routine action’s don’t change the status-quo—they just perpetuate it. Resistant actions don’t change the status-quo either. They just stress you out.
All change happens first in thought. It’s in the moment of decision—not the moment of action—that we are transformed, because transformative decisions are hard, but everything that follows them is easy. When you make a decision, the barrier that you’ve overcome is a mental one, an emotional one, not a physical one.
It’s in the process of thinking—of directing your stream of thought with an intense, focused intention—that we break new ground. That’s why Henry Ford said “thinking is the hardest work there is”. That’s what really gets things done. The action that follows is as inevitable as the sunrise.
When your thoughts are powerful, the action that follows is leveraged. It’s amplified. It’s going to cause a much greater reaction in the recipient than any resistant thought could. It’s going to influence them to take actions of their own. And that’s what you want. Because to create any significant change in the larger world, you’re going to need the efforts of others. There’s over six billion people on the planet and only one of you. Your physical effort doesn’t scale. Your ideas do.
So here’s a prescription for effective action:
- If you’re inspired, do whatever it is you’re inspired to do—now!
- If you’re not inspired in this moment, your work is not to ‘get things done’; your work is to get inspired because that’s what powers your doing. Inspiration comes readily when you’re not resisting it with the incessant chatter of contradictory thought (a.k.a. excuses). Chill out. Meditate. Let go. Listen for the call.
Never jump into action that feels resistant because you think need to get it done. Life is not about getting it done. It’s about loving the doing of it.
When someone says you have to stop thinking about it and take action—don’t listen! That’s crazy talk. Think, think away. Think about it all you can. But here’s the crucial distinction:
“Don’t think about anything else”
Especially: don’t think about the reasons why you can’t do it. Don’t think any thoughts that are discouraging or resistant. Just think about your objective and the emotional reality of it. Think about it until the ideas feel like they’re bursting out of you. Until the exhilaration of the potential is compelling enough to push you over the edge of your resistance.
Now you can’t help but take action. Now you’re riding the wave. Yee-haw!
Take two a day, and call me in the morning
When I started writing this series I had no idea where it would lead. In fact, when I started writing this series it wasn’t a series at all. It was just an idea that grew. Pretty soon it grew beyond what is conveniently packaged in a single blog post; and so, without really knowing what I was doing—a series was born.
When I write—when I go into the flow; I never know just what I’m going to find there. And, in a way—it’s not really me who’s talking. I’m not really sure who it is, or if it’s anyone at all. I just know that I get quiet and listen and then the ideas are there. Flowing through me. And I discover things I never knew that I knew.
And so, in a way, this series is itself an example of its own lesson. And if you have been changed in some small way by your exposure to it, then you know that an idea can indeed change the world.
Here’s a quick recap:
- Your life shaped by thoughts.
- Choose thoughts that feel good because they energize you, buoy your spirits and put you in range of genius ideas.
- Learn to let go of thoughts that agitate you or otherwise are detrimental to your direction.
- Listen to your intuition.
- Take the first step in faith and trust that the answers will be there when you need them.
- Nurture and develop your thoughts until they are so compelling that they push you over the edge of your resistance.
- Share it with other people.
Now you’re taking action.
Now you’re changing the world.