It’s quite obvious that if you want to succeed, you have to take action. There’s no doubt in that.
No matter what you do in life, it’s your actions that define how successful you will become. So what is it that leads you to take action?
We often believe that inspiration leads us to take action. In fact, inspiration leads us to the motivation to take the action. This might be true to a certain extent. But it is the action that often leads us to inspiration, which leads us to motivation to take even more action. In short, action isn’t just the effect of motivation, it’s also the cause of it. This is the ‘Do Something’ Principle.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Before explaining the ‘Do Something’ Principle, I’d like to talk about the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. I’m sure you might have heard of this book. You might have even read it. In that case, the ‘Do Something’ Principle might not be new to you because it is a concept taken from the book.
The title of the book is self-explanatory. However, you can have a misconception about the book if you are only judging it based on the title. You might have heard of the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, in this case, don’t judge it by the title.
Here’s what the book is about, in brief:
There are a lot of things that happen in your life. You need to identify the things that are important to you. Use your time and energy productively by focusing on the things that matter. Everyone has problems in life. It is just a matter of how you deal with your problems. Find meaning in your life that will help you sustain the effort needed to overcome your problems.
The book is indeed about “not giving a fuck”. But it does not imply not giving a fuck about everything in life. Instead, you must give a fuck about the things that are important to you. Having said that, in order to live a good life, we have to know the things that are of value to us and give a fuck about those things.
The ‘Do Something’ Principle
Let’s come back to the ‘Do Something’ principle, which is only a small part of the book. This principle has had a big impact on my life. It is one of the important lessons I have learned from the book.
Mark quotes his high school math teacher in this section of the book. The quote explains the ‘Do Something’ principle in detail. It goes like this:
“If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t sit there and think about it; just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.”
– Mark Manson’s high school math teacher
Most of us take action only when we feel motivated. And, we feel motivated when we are inspired. So here’s what we believe to be true:
Inspiration → Motivation → Action
Let’s suppose the scenario that you are sitting on your couch watching Netflix, instead of cleaning your room. You say to yourself that you are not motivated to clean your room at the moment. So what you do is you wait for motivation, which usually does not come easily. As a result, your room remains dirty.
Although it seems fair to think that without inspiration or motivation, we cannot take action, it is not always true. We must start taking small actions that lead us to feel inspired and motivated to take even more actions. In short, do something.
So here’s how you can start achieving more by doing something:
Action → Inspiration → Motivation
Do something – anything. Even if you are not motivated, take small actions. If you are not motivated to clean your room at the moment, maybe getting off the couch will be the first action to take. Start putting things in place. Throw the trash away from your room. Eventually, you are likely to clean your room anyway.
Taking action and feeling motivated is a three-part chain of an endless loop:
Action → Inspiration → Motivation → Action → Inspiration → Motivation → Action
The ‘Do Something’ principle will help you overcome procrastination and allow you to adopt new values.
“If we follow the ‘do something’ principle, failure feels unimportant. When the standard of success becomes merely acting — when any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as a reward rather than a prerequisite — we propel ourselves ahead. We feel free to fail, and that failure moves us forward.”
Impact of The ‘Do Something’ Principle
When I read about the ‘do something’ principle, it kinda opened my eyes. It had an immediate impact on my life. I got the answer to why I was procrastinating all the time. It was because I was seeking inspiration, which was never coming. So I was waiting for something that was never going to be there.
I started applying the principle immediately in my life and I was able to achieve more by taking small actions. For instance, I used to have a hard time finishing a book. I used to read books only when I was motivated. After finding out about the principle, I started reading books every morning even though I didn’t feel like reading. I made it a habit. Whenever I didn’t feel like reading, I would just say to myself, “I’ll just read one page today.” But, surprisingly, I’d end up reading at least 20 more pages.
The same was for writing. I would write even when I was not inspired. Again, surprisingly, inspiration would come along as I began writing.
I was able to go running every morning because of this principle. The most difficult part of going for a run in the morning was to wake up early. I had no motivation to wake up early in the morning. So what I did was take action. I’d put on my running clothes the night before. When it was time to wake up and go for a run, I would feel motivated because I was already in my running attire.
If you are waiting for inspiration and motivation, you might be left out of achieving something great. It is not that inspiration is never going to come. Someday, when you are feeling good, inspiration will come for sure. But you don’t always have to wait for it.
See for yourself. Try out the ‘do something’ principle and see what changes it brings to your daily life. I am certain that it will have a positive impact on your life.