When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.

– Confucius

This is a four part series, these are all the posts in this series:

Values. Goals. Actions. (1)

Values. Goals. Actions. (2)

Values. Goals. Actions. (3)

Values. Goals. Actions. (4)


Values → Goals → Actions → Habits → Results

I know I seem stuck up on dictionary definitions, but that’s because I’ve come to realize that simple definitions are gateways to epiphanies. I would like us to examine the Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘action’:

The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.

What stands out to me the most is the last word: AIM. An aim is an intended result, a target that you’ve locked your mind on, this means that anything you do that isn’t aimed at achieving a goal that resonates with your values should really be called pseudo-actions or sub-actions.

 Now that we’ve properly defined what actions are, let’s talk about how to do them. It seems like the most difficult part of the process chain above for people is action, and I’m talking from experience here. I once heard someone say that in order to move to a higher level in life, one should ask himself what higher levels of discipline he must first acquire. I believe the most important character or value for taking consistent, persistent and purposeful action is self-discipline. In order to understand how to take action, we would analyze what hinders action, and how to overcome them.

  1. Excusitis: This is a term coined by David Schwartz in the book: The Magic of Thinking Big, he called it the disease of the failures, and he further said “every failure has this disease in its advanced form and most average people have at least a mild case of it”. As Mark Twain said: “There are a thousand excuses for failure, but never a good reason“. This is so true because for every action that failures don’t do and come up with “genuine excuses” for not doing, there are thousands and millions of people getting results by taking that same action. The most common and widespread form of excuisitis is procrastination, thinking there’s always time to take action in the future or waiting for the perfect moment or circumstace. You have to resolve to never give excuses for not taking action or executing your plans. You must reverse the habit of excusitis by accepting responsibility 100% of the time or just keeping shut and not blaming anyone or any circumstance for your results. Instead of excuses, say to yourself: “It will be, if I will it to be, I am solely responsible.”
  2. Fear: Fear is a voice, feeling or sensation in your mind and body that inhibits you from taking some form of action. There’s a quote about fear by Van Gogh: “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced“. You guessed it, the best antidote to fear is ACTION! When fear shows up i.e. you feel a sensation, you have a feeling or you hear a voice that stops you from taking action, welcome it, be like a horse whisperer who is taming a wild stallion, read your fear, listen to the voice, feel the sensation, caress it, assess it, ask it questions and appraise it, then feel it’s power over you slowly dissolve away and if this doesn’t happen, take action anyway, the ultimate antidote and way of handling fear is taking ACTION!
  3. Lack of Resources (real or imagined): This case is most times imagined than real and is usually more a form of excusitis. If the lack of resources is real, then improvisation and resourcefulness is called for. One of my friends who I really respect told me that when he started to learn computer programming, he had no computer, imagine that, I was flabbergasted, and of course I asked how he did it, he said he would borrow computer programming books from the library and read them and just understand and learn the programming language and it’s syntax knowing that one day he would have access to a computer and he’ll be ahead. He eventually got access to a computer and then eventually owned one, but he never let his lack of resources hold him back from pursuing his dreams. I currently have a mentee that is learning web development from his android phone through an app till he can get a computer, talk about resourcefulness. This is just one example, there are other real lack of resources such as capital, working spaces etc, for those I’ll say, go back and read my friend’s experience, and determine to start small and start anyways. One thing I’ve found is true in the journey to success is that the closer you move towards your goals with action, the closer the resources you need to achieve it move to you. You can call it the miracle of the universe, but it happens all the time without fail. Other resources such as knowledge and experience can be easily gotten if only we would try real hard to improvise and start small. A great tool I’ve found out for tackling lack of resources is ‘mindstorming ‘ which is a term I heard first from Brian Tracy. It involves taking a plain sheet of paper and writing out 20 possible solutions to your challenge. It’s crazy difficult to come up with 20 solutions to a problem you thought was unsolvable, but if you stick to it and come up with those 20, you would most definitely arrive at one or two good solutions to your challenge.
  4. Laziness/Distractions: Yesternight I skipped one of my daily activities, when I woke up this morning I asked myself why; it wasn’t fear, cos it’s an exciting activity that I enjoy, it wasn’t lack of resources, cos all I need is a pen and paper, it really wasn’t excuisitis, cos I wasn’t really making excuses for not doing it, I wasn’t procrastinating or anything. I just wanted to lay on my bed, that’s what I felt like doing, I knew I was meant to get my back off the bed, but I didn’t, instead I lay there, trying to think about everything but that activity. It felt good to just lie there doing nothing, and eventually I rationalized that I had achieved so much during the day. This my friends, is laziness in all it’s glory, it seems unflattering to ascribe such a lowly character to ourselves especially if we’re really hardworking, but the truth is, it happens to the best of us. Sometimes it’s distractions that get in the way e.g. social media such as youtube, instagram, Facebook etc. I have a really good one though: Wikipedia. I read wikipedia articles sometimes when I’m feeling lazy and convince myself that I’m doing something sensible even though it is totally unproductive and not goal-achieving in any way. I found a way to curb this. It’s the 5 minutes / 5 seconds rule: Whenever you catch yourself doing something unproductive or avoiding important work, count to 5, and then force yourself to leave whatever it is you’re doing and go do what you’re meant to do. It’s simple but it takes sheer willpower, this works only if you work it. The other part is to promise yourself to do whatever it is you’re avoiding for just 5 minutes no matter how large a task or project it is, and give it your all for that 5 minutes, if after 5 minutes you still don’t feel like doing it, then you can choose to stop, you will find out that most times you can spend a couple of hours doing a task you were avoiding by trying to do it for just 5 minutes.