3 tips on acting better
“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.”
— William Shakespeare
Four years ago, after a traumatic event, I entered a period where I wanted to improve my life. I started to read articles, watch videos, and gather information — about psychology, philosophy and personal development in general.
I encountered many ideas, but one of the most interesting was a simple one: take action.
It was something both philosophers and entrepreneurs advised, and I kept going over it in my mind. I didn’t dare at first, but then as I was walking one day, I suddenly felt a deep urge within me.
The incubation was over and it struck me: I fully realized only thinking about things had limitations; I had to start taking action as well — turn theory into practice and act out what I had learned.
From that day and onwards, I’ve not only gathered information, but I’ve also tried to apply it. And it has resulted in a book and over 150 articles.
Why We’re Not All Billionaires
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a philosopher and writer said,
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply.”
Gary Vaynerchuk, an entrepreneur and speaker said,
“When it comes down to it, nothing trumps execution.”
I think it boils down to this: You have to take what you gather and test it against the world. You have to act it out and see what it does.
Because what good is information if it doesn’t do anything? And in a world where there’s no shortage of information, what separates the successful from the less successful, is the ability to turn potential information into actual utilization. As Derek Sivers, an American entrepreneur explained so perfectly,
“If information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”
Evolution Makes It Hard to Act
Aiming without action is like pointing the remote towards the TV without ever turning it on. You’re only holding the remote, and you’ll miss your favorite episode of The Cleveland Show.
To bring something into reality, you have to align your actions with your aims. Otherwise it’s just wishful thinking; air, electrical signals or whatever, that you entertain yourself with.
But I get it. Action can be hard. For various reasons. And there seems to be one thing that especially make it so: we worry what other people might think of us. Once we act, it’s like we go from keeping our dreams protected on the inside, to allowing other people to judge them on the outside. And that’s frightening.
However, you don’t have to feel bad if this is the case. There’s no shame in worrying about what other people might think of you. In fact, it’s only natural to consider other people’s opinions; you’re wired to it.
Following the thinking of evolutionary theory, being a social outcast meant trouble in the ancient times, as it was much harder to survive on one’s own back then. Naturally, people wanted to stay together in groups.
To avoid being thrown out by the bouncers of the age, people needed to behave in proper ways. Deviating too much from the norm could cause trouble for the rest; a threat to the established peace.
Thus, considering other’s opinions acted as a social correction tool, allowing people to regulate their own (mis) behaviors.
Luckily, some things have changed. We don’t have to worry as much about being thrown out of a certain group anymore. Thanks to our technological developments, we can easily survive on our own. And what’s more, we can always find another community — one that’s more appreciative of us — due to the ease of global connections. I think we should be grateful for this opportunity. It allows us to deviate — in the good ways.
Don’t Do the World A Disservice
Although your wiring tells you to consider others’ opinions, there’s a difference between that and worrying. Think about it. Should you let other people dictate what you can and cannot do? Should you quit your dreams because someone might think something mean about them?
I think we all know the answers to these questions. And it comes down to this: Living your best life matters more than what other people think of it.
Yes, you can consider people’s opinions, but you can act in your own ways regardless. You can listen to the feedback that others give you but decide what to do in the final instance. You can live your dreams, even if it’s a bit scary.
If you choose not to act, on the other hand, you might be doing the world a disservice. Remember that refraining from action has consequences too: you delay positive impact, you make it harder to succeed later on, and you might just end up with regret. William James, the ‘father of American psychology’, argued,
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
You and your actions could have an immensely positive impact on the world. And to that regard, here are three tips on how you can act better; how you can align your actions to your aims.
1. Habits Are the Building Blocks to Success
Will Durant, one of the greatest historians that ever lived, concluded that,
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
What he meant by this, is that a simple one-time act isn’t enough to ensure excellence. We need repetition. While we can choose to do the right things occasionally, it’s often not enough to reach our dreams.
We have to act in accordance with our aims on a consistent basis. We need to repeat what’s useful, over and over again; ingrain it in our lives and make it automatic. We need to make it a habit.
Think of brushing your teeth. It’s something you do most days without thinking about it. Then, imagine if you can do the same thing with an action that will move you closer to your aims. It will surely make it easier than using willpower alone.
When you’re creating habits for yourself, you might discover that it’s not as easy to create them. It’s a bit challenging, and it can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months to implement them. There are, however, some ways to make it easier:
- Small changes are easier than big ones. If you want to write a book, for example, then writing one sentence every day is easier than writing one page every day.
- It’s helpful to build on an existing habit. Writing one sentence after the habit of making coffee is easier than doing it in a vacuum. This concept allows you to create a chain of habits — and you can add as many as you can manage.
- Prime your mind with cues. If you lay a notebook on top of your coffeemaker in the evening, it will remind you to write in it in the morning.
- Set your habits first thing in the morning. Your brain is more plastic and open to change following sleep. Your mind will be fresh, making it easier to do what you intended.
- Consider your reasons. Think about the reasons for creating your desired habit. The stronger they are, the easier it will be to adhere to.
If you act in accordance with your aim, on a daily basis, you’re likely to eventually get there. Long-term consistency beats short-term intensity. Habits are the building blocks to to success.
2. Select Situations And Let Them Shape You
Larsen, Buss, and Wismeijer, all personality psychologists, argued that,
“The real answer to understanding most life outcomes can be found in the interaction between personal characteristics and life situations: exceptional things happen when chance situations meet the prepared person.”
But what if you actively designed the situations before you entered into them — so it wasn’t only up to chance? Well, it’s possible. You have the power to think ahead, visualize, and plan where you want to go next. You can design situations to a significant degree. For as Winston Churchill said,
“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”
Try to think about the effects of entering into a situation, and then determine whether you want to interact with it. Although your foresight isn’t perfect, it’s better to anticipate things than it’s to go from situation to situation unwittingly.
If you’re a serious athlete, for example, you should be careful of not entering into situations that hinder performance.
The gym is better than the party. And to hang out with athletes is better than with party lions. Similarly, if you want to do well in school, hang out with smart and determined people.
The same principle applies to everything. You adapt to the people and places around you, so you better cherry-pick your options. Though you can try to resist it, most of it happens automatically.
By nature, you need things outside yourself to make judgements. You need other people to determine what the appropriate social behaviors are. You adapt to the norm — wherever you are — and it’s hard to resist that fact. You can either fight it or you can leverage it. As Jim Rohn said,
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
3. Don’t Break Your Own Promises
You probably wouldn’t take lightly on breaking promises to others, so why would you treat yourself any differently?
Making promises to yourself is important. But if you do, it’s even more important that you keep them.
Because when you’re able to, you build credibility, self-love and confidence. When you break them, on the other hand, it hurts the relationship you have with yourself (which is the most important relationship of them all).
While you might think it doesn’t matter much, it does. If you break your own promises, over time you might become distrusting of yourself. And who can you trust if you can’t even trust yourself? It’s something to think about when you’re moving towards your aims.
Taking action might be hard, but realize your actions matter more than what other people think of them. You can try to implement these tips if you like:
- Create habits that will help you accomplish your aims. Make small changes, build from an existing habit, prime your mind with cues, set habits in the morning, and think of your reasons.
- Design your situations before you enter into them. Think about what environments and people that would be good for you.
- Make and keep promises to yourself.
If you ever hope to reach your aims, then you have to align your actions to them. And over time, you might eventually get there. And remember, what good is the information in this article if it doesn’t do anything?
Want to live a more meaningful life? Get my free PDF here.