6 Keys to Develop the Action Habit

6 Keys to Develop the Action Habit

“An idea can be profound, but it is useless unless used”
-Richard Bach, Author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull

We all know of course that results are the cause of action. But how do you develop the habit of taking action? In order for us to successfully implement the habit of taking action, we have to learn how to use our imagination and independent will to overcome our conditioning.

We have a unique endowment as humans, we are responsible. When we take a closer look at the word responsibility we find its roots come from the two words; response and ability. We have the ability to respond, or the ability to take action.

When we make the decision of becoming response-able, we accept that our lives are the product of our choices. The choice to take action, or not will ultimately determine your results. If you want results in life, you must master the habit of taking consistent action.

1. Your environment is a product of you

The reason most people don’t take action is because they think they are a product of their environment. This is a classic case of determinism and a distorted view of reality.

This thinking gets us nowhere as it leaves our fate beyond our control. If our circumstances are beyond our control, naturally, we’ll lack motivation to take action. What’s the point when we’re a product of our environment?

Here’s what this type of thinking look likes:

Stimulus > Response

As you can see, this is a linear thinking process.

Here’s what is actually happening in reality:

Stimulus > Response Continuum

You might ask “But why did you make the arrows rainbow colored?” Good question. I think diagrams are boring in general, which is why I hesitated to use them. However I think for this purpose, it’s good to be able to see the difference. The rainbow colors are just for added effect. If you really need a meaning though, perhaps it’s because life is much more colorful when you see things clearly. =)

When we can see that this is a continuous cycle, we realize that our environment is a product of us. If our environment is a product of us, well jeez, that means we have to take responsibility for it, don’t we? If you want to give up that responsibility, fine, live a determined life. But at least make that decision consciously.

2. Follow your passion

This may seem like a no-brainer, but most people go for exactly the opposite. They go for security, safety and comfort. They spend more time acquiring outer resources, then developing inner ones.

If you’re going to develop the habit of taking action, you need to be motivated.

If you’re doing what you love to do every day, you’re likely to take consistent and massive action.

If you’re working in a job you hate, slaving yourself away in a cubicle, you’re less likely to take action. You’re just going to do the bare minimum to get by.

To develop the habit of action, we need to make goals that inspire us. When we’re inspired, we’ll be motivated and the natural result is that we’ll take lots and lots of action.

Find a way to start doing what you love, even if you have to start small. You’re more likely to develop your talents in something you love, rather than something that gives you a false sense of security. If you feel like you don’t have enough time, consider making time for the important. If we don’t make time for the things that really matter to us, when will we? Who wants to go from the cubicle to the casket?

3. Focus on the results you want, not on the means by which you’ll achieve them

When we’re constantly trying to figure out how we’ll get things done, we’re stuck in the mode of planning. Move your focus to what you want, instead of how you’re going to get it.

Start taking action toward your goals and stop trying to plan everything out perfectly in advance.

Don’t be afraid to make up how you’ll get there as you go along. Use the Ready Fire Aim aproach, instead of Ready Aim Aim Aim Aim Fire. Correct your course as you go along instead of trying to find the perfect course. Often the perfect conditions never come and 5 (or 50) years later you realize you’re in the same place you’ve always been.

Don’t let anyone get in your way, most importantly, don’t let yourself get in the way. If your mind has doubts about your ability, silence it. Take a rain check on your opinion.

4. Inspiration and great ideas are the result of action

Don’t wait for inspiration and great ideas to happen to you. Most people think that a great mind precedes great action.

It’s easy to see why people think this way when we refer to the world’s most influential people as “great thinkers” or “great minds.”

What we don’t realize is the reason they were great thinkers is they didn’t wait for inspiration to come to them, they came to the inspiration. They took action and may have failed repeatedly, but the difference is that they didn’t wait around for a great idea to just pop into their heads. They actively sought out inspiration, instead of just passively waiting for it to happen. They were not simply “great thinkers” they were “great doers.”

Not only did they actively seek out ideas and creative genius, but they failed many times before reaching their own level of greatness. Fear of failure didn’t paralyze them. Instead they realized with each failure, they were that much closer to success.

5. Practice makes the master

It takes time to develop the habit of taking action. Especially when you’ve spent years doing exactly the opposite. Start small and don’t let your fear of failure or self-doubt stop you from taking action. Sometimes, if we don’t have anything nice to say to ourselves, it’s better that we remain silent. We readily apply this principle with other people all the time, but how often do we talk negatively to ourselves on a daily basis?

The best way to overcome fear and self-doubt is to take action. Action crushes fear, because it demystifies it. Often we realize we weren’t afraid of anything other than simply not knowing. Release yourself from your need to know, and trust that you’ll find the answers as you go along.
Remember, you can always change course. You can always change your aim, but if you haven’t fired yet, what’s the point of aiming?

6. Don’t think, what do I have? Think, what do I want?

Are you waiting until all the conditions are right in order for you to take action? Perhaps you think, “if only I had enough time”, “if only I had the money”, “if only I had the resources”, “if only I knew the right people.”

You’re not the only one who’s thought this way. I used to think that I could accomplish my goals “if only I had this.”

If only I was born with better rhythm I could become a good drummer.
If only I was born with a better voice I could write better songs.
If only I had a better memory I might be a better web developer.
If only I was more romantic I could have a better relationship.

Do you know where all this thinking got me? Absolutely nowhere.

Fortunately I managed to overcome my focus on what I didn’t have and started focusing on what I could do.

Stop focusing on what you have and start focusing on what you want. Doors will start to open for you where before there were only walls. And hey, if there’s no door, there’s always a sledge hammer. =P

Implementing the action habit:

  • Start taking action even if you don’t have a clear idea of what needs to be done. Start moving towards you goal. Make corrections later.
  • Make a commitment. Sometimes the easiest way to take action is to make commitment. Tell your friends and family about it, so you have their support. A commitment helps you stay accountable.
  • Enjoy the process of discovery. Trying to plan everything before you start will often paralyze you from taking action. It’s fine to a vision, and actually essentially to success, but don’t let your need to know every detail stop you from taking action.
  • Focus on your strengths, not your limitations. Not everyone will have the same approach to solving a particular problem. Use your unique talents to your advantage.
  • Use your imagination to create to build up your emotional desire. Whatever your goal is, just visualize in your mind for a moment what it would feel like to accomplish your goal. What would it feel like emotionally to know that you completed it? Often this process of creating an emotional build-up will be enough to make us start itching to take action.
  • Let Flickr inspire you. Find a thought related to your goal and do a search for it on flickr. For example, if you want to create a better relationship with your parter, you could do a search for “embrace” or “lovers.” Take a moment to meditate on the image and how it relates to your intentions and desire, let it swirl around in your head a little bit. Often images have a powerful effect of getting us to really feel our goals emotionally. The more emotion you have behind your goal, the greater chance that you will take action.

What are you waiting for, a certain shade of green?

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main photo by awesome stevenstark

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Alex Blackwell

Great post Jonathan. Too often we do worry about the “how” in life instead of the “what.” Once we conceive of the “what,” and commit to action, we are in a great position to achieve.

Tim Brownson

I’m going to kick off a potentially contentious discussion here Jonathan. I’m playing devils advocate bud because that is a thoughtful post full of very good advice to anybody that is motivated to change, but doesn’t actually know how to. However, I reckon that is less than 25% of the population, and in my experience around 3/4 of people that want to change fall into one of the catagories below: 1. Lack motivation 2. Don’t know what their passion is (don’t under-estimate this one, I get clients like this every week) 3. They’re a serial procrastinator (the single biggest issue… Read more »


I really enjoyed this article! I have read many similar self-help articles about things like the power of visualization, finding happiness, and overcoming determinism, yet most of these fail in providing a useful, _applied_ perspective. It is through action that the rubber meets the road in positive thinking, and I think that your point of view laid out here builds a nice bridge between *thinking* positive things, and *doing* positive things.

Thanks very much for a rarely-seen useful insight!

Kenneth King

Nicely done Jonathan. As long as people have step 2 down pat, the rest of your advice will be very easy to follow. I am also familiar with the “Ready Fire Aim” concept from Steve Pavlina, and know that you are on target with that as well. Thanks for sharing.

Clay Collins | The Growing Life

I really really like this. I can tell that you put a lot of work into this and it certainly paid off for your readers. Thanks so much my friend!


Great article, Jonathan! Nothing is going to happen without concrete action. And nothing is going to happen without us making a conscious decision.

Far too often, many of us are too caught up wtih whining and complaining. It’s time to kick some butts!



Due to my insomnia I finally read through the whole blog thoroughly. It’s very glass half full, taking responsibility and most importantly *action* ~ I am struggling with this lately due to a spiritual flat tire, but alas, I have a spare in my subconscious somewhere and I find myself doubting it’s existence before lifting up the trunk to actually see. Sometimes we repeat our mistakes so many times that things seem unchangeable. But those of us who are serial triers (sp?) need a boost to become serial *doers* ~ my wake up calls (plural) are the messages I’ve been… Read more »

Shamelle @ Enhance Life

As Clay mentioned before I also can say that you have done a lot of research and hard work to write a brilliant post as this.

Very comprehensively written.

Desika Nadadur | I Am My Own Master

Jonathan, buddy, another great post from you! I am going to print this and read and reread it until absorb the golden nuggets in this post.

Wonderful! Wonderful!


P.S. I gave this a stumble. :-)


[…] focused on finding Authenticity, Clarity and Balance in all aspects of living. His articles include 6 Keys for Developing the Action Habit and How to Use Gratitude to Re-Center […]


[…] 6 keys to develop the action habit […]

Tracy Chapman

I’m reading Wayne Dyer’s book, “Excuses Begone!” right now and it really speaks to many of the reasons why we don’t often take action (excuses) and how to remove those excuses and start living. It’s great so far!


its very inspiring! i like it


[…] a clear idea of what needs to be done. Start moving towards your goal. Make corrections later.” (6 Keys to Develop the Action Habit, Illuminated […]


Never been on this site before but thank you so much for writing this. It’s come at such a perfect time for me and I’ve gotten a real good kick from it. Thank you.


Before reading this I was in a stale and motionless state and had no motivation. After reading this it has cleared my mind and showed me what I should be focusing on and putting my time and energy into the right places. I am very thankful to share yourknowledge and wisdom for everyone! This has done well for me and has lifted me up!

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