Aspiration without action is wishful thinking. Awareness without action is powerless. Your resolutions and intentions, without action, are useless.
This third pillar, Action, is the final essential element of Mindful Self-Discipline. It is here that the rubber meets the road. But it’s not enough to “just take action”. Your action needs to be purposeful, consistent, and effective.
In the Action Pillar, you will learn how to translate your aspiration and goals into milestones and habits, and then how to overcome the four remaining obstacles to disciplined action: forgetfulness, procrastination, doubts, and rigidity.
Taking action requires effort, and your brain doesn’t like effort. Ten thousand years ago, laziness was often a virtue—it meant saving energy and thus increasing the chances of survival. Nowadays laziness means the exact opposite: you will struggle to pay the bills. Besides, if your goal is not only surviving but also thriving, laziness is not an option.
To move forward with your aspiration, you need to take organized action. For that, you will need an action plan, which is your map of the territory. Otherwise, it’s too easy to put in a lot of unfocused effort, not get the results you want, then feel frustrated and give up.
A good action plan helps you avoid two pitfalls:
- Underestimating the journey
- Underestimating yourself
When you underestimate the journey, there is an unconscious tendency to allocate fewer resources than what is really required. You think that the tasks will take less time, energy, patience, and willpower than they actually will. As a result, the natural challenges, obstacles, and uncertainties of the journey take you by surprise. When that happens, you may feel disheartened and burn out.
When you underestimate yourself, you look at the path ahead and feel overwhelmed. You think, “There is no way I can accomplish all of this.” You don’t have a clear path forward, and you feel discouraged and start doubting yourself.
Breaking down your goals into milestones and then action steps allows you to avoid these two pitfalls. You will have a better grasp of what is needed to achieve your goal, thus developing a healthy dose of respect for the work ahead. And you won’t get overwhelmed, because the next steps are always clear, and small enough that you can tackle.
To learn more about how to design an effective action plan for your goals, and effective habits, see chapters 25 to 27 of Mindful Self-Discipline.