“We often avoid taking action because we think ‘I need to learn more,’” wrote Atomic Habits author James Clear in a recent newsletter. “But the best way to learn is often by taking action.” We found this idea to be particularly resonant right now, as so many of us have been contemplating our goals and plans for the future. We tend to shy away from taking action because we fear we’re not prepared, but oftentimes, it’s exactly what we need to jump-start positive change.
We asked our Thrive community to share something they’ve learned by simply taking action and pushing forward, even when they felt unprepared. Which of these lessons have you learned from taking action?
Small efforts make a difference
“I’ve learned that small actions really do add up. By making one better decision each day towards a habit, and making those desired habits easier, you set the ground for success in the person you want to be. I’ve learned that taking action in the form of small steps can lead to long-term change. There are daily challenges and successes, and I’m enjoying the growth of the process.”
—Liz Vaysman, attorney and entrepreneur, Philadelphia, PA
It only takes one person to create change
“In response to the pandemic, I started the Floral Heart Project as a way to help recognize the many people lost to COVID-19. This public art project started because I wanted to do something about the need for better ways to mourn those we have lost to the virus. I started to anonymously lay memorials in New York. I’m now helping to support people all over the country who want to do the same in their neighborhoods. Taking action taught me that anyone can help the community heal. You just need to stand up and volunteer to do so.”
—Kristina Libby, creator of the Floral Heart Project, New York, N.Y.
It’s OK to start before you feel ready
“When I decide to act on something, it’s often after I have put it off because I thought it would be unpleasant or hard. I often shy away from taking action because I don’t know where to start. But in the end, I always find out that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I have found that the key is simply going slow and breaking down the action into small, specific tasks. In the end, there’s power in simply starting, even if you don’t feel ready.”
—Dave Galloway, principal strategist, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
There’s power in sharing our stories
“Writing is my catharsis for dealing with all the fear and anxiety that accompanies being diagnosed with brain cancer at 39 years old. I wrote a book for myself and I never expected anyone to read it, but once lockdown started, I found my calling by sharing my story virtually by giving speeches. It was odd at first, since there was no emotion to feel from the audience, but I decided to commit to change and utilize it as an opportunity. I seized the moment, and started to speak virtually on a regular basis. I’ve learned that accepting change and constantly moving forward is something that keeps us present and prevalent. It helps us live in the moment and appreciate the now.”
—Matthew Newman, keynote speaker and author, Washington Crossing, PA
We can silence our inner critic
“I’ve learned that taking action almost always reduces the volume of the inner critic. We are so often caught up in overthinking situations with ‘what if’, or self-sabotaging ourselves to the point that we no longer believe we can actually succeed at a particular task. Whenever I hear the voice of my inner critic, I now take action instead of indulging in overthinking. By recognizing the voice and course-correcting on the spot, my well-being has significantly improved.”
—Ellen Million, empowerment and confidence coach, Zurich, Switzerland
Starting small is still starting
“I used to enjoy creative writing and have been meaning to get back into it, but there always seemed to be some excuse to procrastinate. A few months ago, I bought a children’s book for my son called ‘A Squiggly Story,’ and the message was very relevant for me: a story starts with a single word and a word starts with a single letter. Feeling motivated, I decided to take action and simply start writing again. The book was right! A story grows from a single letter, so you just need to start there.”
—Jon Vassallo, director of partnerships and general manager, Toronto, ON, Canada
Sharing our skills can help others
“During the pandemic, I rediscovered my passion for learning and skill sharing. The disappearance of my commute and experiencing three lockdowns opened up new time for me to focus on my passions rather than overlooking them. I decided to use knowledge to help someone else gain experience in the arts and culture sector. I am now mentoring young women to lead fulfilling careers through an arts mentoring charity!”
—Fiona Livingston, associate director marketing and communication, London, U.K.
We can use social media to educate
“I started sharing posts on social media about the realities and need for change in the way this country treats and views mental health care. The pandemic has highlighted the impending mental health crisis in this country, and encouraged me to take action and educate the people that follow me on the realities of mental illness and mental healthcare.”
—Sarah Rudman, operations manager, Boston, MA
Pivoting can be a good thing
“I finally launched my climate optimist class last year, which was both scary and exciting. I decided to face my fears, embrace imperfection, and teach what I’m passionate about. The idea of the class was inside me for a long time, but when COVID hit, it became evident that a physical stage wouldn’t present itself anytime soon, and it was up to me to make that stage appear if I wanted it. I trusted that the message was important, and I found the courage to act on my passion for helping people and inspiring change. The class has already changed many times, based on feedback, insights, and learnings. But I know one thing for sure: it wouldn’t be what it is today had I not had the courage to launch it in the first place.”
—Anne Therese Gennari, co-founder of Role Models Mgmt, Great Barrington, MA
Spreading kindness can spark joy
“The pandemic has shown me how important it is to be kind to all I encounter, because the pandemic has affected everyone in so many ways that greater understanding and empathy is needed. My organization has provided us with numerous opportunities to virtually volunteer, from writing words of encouragement to military, frontline workers and seniors, to helping with homework and mentoring. For me, this has been a great way to show kindness and give back to those in need. It also makes me feel good that I have something to offer others and having the ability to share joy with others has brought that back in my own life.”
—Suzanne Schnaars, engineer, Waldwick, N.J.
Have you ever taken action in your life and learned something important along the way? Share your story with us in the comments.
Take a mindful break and immerse yourself in a “Meditative Story” here.
Stay up to date or catch up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.