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Why is Taking Action Hard? | Scott H Young

Taking action = eventual success

Taking action = eventual success

Inaction is the biggest cause of our failures and our miseries. If we could consistently do the things we know we should do, we would be more successful, and our lives would be better. Yet we struggle to take action.

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Why is Taking Action Hard? | Scott H Young

Why is Taking Action Hard? | Scott H Young

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2019/12/16/why-is-action-hard/

scotthyoung.com

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Key Ideas

Taking action = eventual success

Inaction is the biggest cause of our failures and our miseries. If we could consistently do the things we know we should do, we would be more successful, and our lives would be better. Yet we struggle to take action.

Explaining inaction

Some possible but weak reasons why action is hard:

  • Talent. But the world is full of brilliant stars that flame out and mediocre minds that build empires.
  • Preferences can explain our failure to try, but don't explain our inner struggles with inaction.
  • Capacity for effort. If your capacity for doing things is lower, it does not explain chronic bursts of activity with inevitable crashes in your goals and projects.
  • Motivation. Some people with the most reason have the hardest time taking action. 

Confidence

Motivation and expectation of success create a feedback loop:
  • Your motivation to complete a task depends on the value of the reward and your expectation of success. 
  • Your expectation of success depends on your motivation.

If your projects tend to fail, your expectations are low, and motivation fades. If your projects tend to succeed, your expectations go up, and motivation stays strong.

Social-Desirability Bias

Our conscious mind may be functioning more by making reasonable-sounding explanations for its behavior rather than actually making decisions.

This means that we fail because the unconscious parts of our mind have decided not to take action. You might be convincing yourself that you want to pursue a goal when your unconscious mind is not committed to it.

Daydreams and Reality

We have two characteristic modes of viewing things—an abstract (or far-mode) and a concrete (or near-mode) view.

Because of the two modes, many big goals have a far-near incompatibility that can make it difficult to take action on. The person who dreams up the goal is different from the one who executes it.

Sticking Your Neck Out

Our nature may be to view the cost-benefits of taking actions and be willing to retreat to conformity instead of getting punished.

Some ventures into different kinds of actions are discouraged if they don't yield big rewards. It may explain inaction to start your own business, but a strong expectation to show up on time to work.

We're Short-Sighted

Procrastination may be a delaying tactic to avoid wasting energy here and now, even if you think you might work harder later on.

Get Better at Taking Action

Traditional approaches often focus on human will alone. But, our minds are complicated things, with many conscious and unconscious control mechanisms.

To take action, we need to not only have new inputs to turn us in the right direction, but also the ability to keep headed in the chosen direction.

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Have a capture mechanism

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Incubate your ideas

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Goal-Setting

Any goal or project will usually have these basic qualities:

  • A general ambition or motivation. (e.g. learn French)
  • A specific target. (e.g.  speak fluently)

Goals To Start In The Middle

When a goal has high uncertainty as to what level is achievable to reach within a particular time-frame, it is better to set specific targets in the middle of the process.

Plan your goals with the variables you do have: overall direction, time-frame, level of effort and strategies.

Reasons To Postpone Goal-Setting

  • Uncertain goals should be set in the middle. This will enable you to set the correct challenge level to maximize effort.
  • Some research shows that for very complex tasks, goal-setting can hinder effectiveness. This is because complex tasks are cognitively demanding in the beginning and can be frustrating because you can't perform adequately. To add on more tasks can impair your performance.

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