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You Don’t Want To Be Told What To Do

You just need to know how.

I hate running.

We promised the kids a family bike ride. The problem was my daughter’s bike was broken and there wasn’t time to fix it with the schedule we had for the day. My wife suggested that I could just stay home, get stuff done and she would take the kids.

I almost took her up on that generous gesture.

If there isn’t a ball involved, I can’t seem to get myself to run. I mean, maybe I can walk fast, but if it is not basketball, racquetball, or soccer, or some other sport with a ball, then there is no running for me.

Then I felt bad, I promised the kids I would take them.

So my wife took my bike pulling the baby, our oldest daughter took my wife’s, the two boys had their own bikes, and I ran.

HORRIBLE.

I thought I was going for a jog. It was a chase. I was just chasing the whole time.

Every time I thought we were going to turn around and come home the kids wanted to keep going. The oldest wanted to show us beehives down the road, fine. The youngest son wanted to see the horses one neighborhood away, man. None were in the direction of our house! I ran more in that 1 hour than I ever have in my entire life at one time…

The kids want to do it again.

I guess I love running now.

Most things that are good for us are not appealing.

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” -Les Brown

Be honest: double fudge walnut brownies are better than boiled chicken with peas, right?

Doing 100 Burpees is not a fun way to start the day.

We will never feel like doing the things we don’t want to do.

That is the entire definition of why they are called “the things we don’t want to do!” Often the things that will transform our lives are the very things we fight against. That is because our brains are wired to resist change, to stay comfortable. We are programmed to survive: routine and conserving energy help us survive. But they are not enough to help us thrive. We need more than that.

To get what we truly desire, we need to do things we do not want to do.

“Sometimes you have to do what you don’t like to get to where you want to be.” -Tori Amos

We all have goals and ambitions. We want the end result. The problem is trying to get there. The problem is the journey doesn’t look fun. Once we start, we find reasons to not continue. We tell ourselves stories that cause us to change course. If accomplishing our goals was easy, we would all feel fulfilled. Yet, according to research by Harris and Wakefield, 1/3 of all adults currently feel dissatisfied with their lives and current situation. That is because getting what we want means we have to do things we don’t want to do. That is hard.

We know “what” to do, most of the time.

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” -Leonardo da Vinci

By now, we all know what to do. Knowing what to do is not the issue. Everyone can pick up a how to book, anyone can google anything. We all know what we need to do to accomplish our goals. We know we need to wake up earlier, exercise more, plan strategically, network, read more, and serve others. We know this. Knowledge is barley relevant though. Everyone has the exact same knowledge. Knowledge isn’t power anymore. We know what, yet often, we don’t know how.

It is the “how” that we so desperately need.

“Just because people understand what to do doesn’t ensure that they will actually do it.” -Marshall Goldsmith

How many of those “How To” guides actually tell you how? Most of the time they tell you: what. What is great. What is useful. Today, what is not enough. We need to know how. We crave the ability to change and the power to adapt. We need action. The how is the action that leads you to enacting the what. Creation comes from doing, not from knowing. Success is only found in the aftermath of massive action.

We always win when we think about others first, then our values, and then take action.

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” -Amelia Earhart

Just like the “jog” with the family, I didn’t want to do it. But doing it aligned with my end goals, my values, and so I took action. And that is the secret we all so badly crave. The simple truth is that taking action is the one thing that will propel us in the right direction. Taking action is the only thing that will create the success we want. Taking action is the only thing that will give us the power to reach our potential.

So the real power lies in learning how to take action. Learning to be courageous.

Courage is what we need and want and there are simple ways to use it, daily.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Courage is the ability and willingness to take the proper action in the face of pain, fear, or grief. We all could use a little more courage. The good thing is that there are so many ways to take proper action.

The “what” is a concept. The “how” is a tool. You need both.

Mel Robbins has a great tool. She calls it the 5 second rule. I have done a variation of her rule for years.

In Mel’s 5 Second Rule once you get an idea that you need to do something, once you feel inspired, then you can activate your prefrontal cortex to start taking action by counting down from 5 to Zero. Say out loud or in your mind — Five, Four, Three, Two, One… and once you reach 1, you just start moving, you start doing whatever it is you don’t want to do. It works. Try it.

The reasons this tool works is because when counting backwards you can’t make excuses, you are focused on the present, and you are interrupting your normal thought patterns.

The way I have done this for years is by saying the names of the people that rely on me. So rather than allowing my own self-limiting thoughts and feelings to dictate what actions I take, I let my true “why” become the focus. For a while, it was just 1 name repeated 4 to 5 times. Sometimes it was the names of 50 or so people (when I was in Hong Kong), or most of the time these days it is the name of my wife and 4 children.

Thinking about the names of the real people who rely on me to do things I don’t want to do creates enough diversion that I force myself to take the proper action without too much internal resistance.

Creating triggers or prompts that activate you to take action will enable you to reach your goals.

“Nothing will work unless you do.” -Maya Angelou

When you create triggers that prompt you to think differently, it takes less energy to make a change. It is always hard to exert the initial activation energy to start taking action. But once you do, you can keep going.

Stanford professor BJ Fogg has some great material on how to create behavioral change (all true change is behavioral; it is an action).

Professor Fogg developed and proved this formula: B=MAP

Behavior (B) happens when Motivation (M), Ability (A), and a Prompt (P) come together at the same moment.

Beautiful.

(Also read The Power of Habit and Triggers)

When we can use our personal “why” combined with our skill and values, and then take action, we can proactively change our behavior.

We can become anything we want; we can accomplish anything we need to because we have the power to act.

Action creates success.

Conclusion: Learn to take action by using specific tools.

Prompts, triggers, countdowns, and other rituals can all be effective tools to help you take action. When we take action, we are applying courage. Confidence comes after courage, not the other way around.

When you focus on “doing” by initiating activation energy to start the process, you will find all the courage you need.

P.S. –

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