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4 Easy Ways to Develop a Bias for Action Right Now

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bias for action

Let me guess, you’ve been putting something off recently. You’ve been dreaming of starting a business, writing a book, or talking to that attractive person in your office, but something deep inside you has stopped you from taking action.

The human mind is fantastic at coming up with reasons for not taking action. The human brain is designed to keep us safe and to conserve energy. For that reason, we are programmed to look for risks and reduce the amount of work we need to do to in order to survive. When we weigh any potential action, we look for reasons that specific action or activity will fail. At the same time, we look for ways that we can conserve energy and get the same benefit from less effort.

What this means is that those who are able to act in an incisive way and focus their energy, have a tremendous advantage compared to their peers. Research shows that those who are able to develop the habit for action are many times more likely to be successful in business and in their relationships than people who describe themselves as procrastinators or are unable to take regular action.

This habit is called the “bias for action”, and it refers to the tendency to make decisions quickly and take action on them regularly rather than getting side tracked by worry or doubt. But how do you develop such a valuable habit? Through practice, plain and simple.

Here are four ways to develop a bias for action which will jump start your life:

1. Reduce distractions

One of the biggest reasons that people cite for not taking action is because they are overwhelmed by the number of things going on in their lives that they have to decide on. The more you are able to reduce the number of distractions you have in your life, the more you will be able to focus on what matters to you.

Consider turning off all of your mobile phone notifications except for those you absolutely cannot live without. Get better at saying no to people who invite you to events and activities. Learn to live within your means and conserve energy for what actually matters most to you.

“Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.” – Adam Hochschild

2. Count down from five

If you get stuck and start overthinking anything, you are less likely to make a move and act. One of the best books I’ve ever read on taking action is called The Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins. In the book, she describes a moment in her life where everything seemed to be falling apart.

She was 41, she was drinking too much, her work / life balance was nonexistent, and her marriage was falling apart. Things were not going well, and she knew something had to change. Sitting up late one night, she was watching TV and happened to see a clip of a rocket preparing for blastoff, with the requisite “Five… four… three… two… one… blast off” sounding off in the background. With that, she decided to implement the practice of counting down from five every time she knew she needed to take action on something but couldn’t.

3. Make smaller decisions

Most self-help books talk about developing a grand master plan and some overarching vision which will guide you and drive you forward. Sure, having a unifying mission and vision can be a great way of helping you define your far-off goals, but it can also be overwhelming when you’re just trying to live your everyday life.

If you have a high level goal or vision, that’s great, but don’t forget the importance of taking action every day on smaller things. Make it a goal to do something that is beneficial to your mind (read a book, talk to a mentor), your body (go for a run or a 30 minute walk), and your soul (meditate, go to a museum, or see an old friend) each and every day. The long term goals are important, but they won’t matter unless you manage to make the right smaller decisions on a daily basis.

“No matter how many goals you have achieved, you must set your sights on a higher one.” – Jessica Savitch

4. Create a decision engine

Once you start making decisions on a regular basis, the process will become addictive. Habits are made out of loops. There is a trigger which causes an action (habit). Upon completing that action (habit), you receive a reward, which releases dopamine into the brain. This, in turn, makes you seek out opportunities to engage with that initial trigger.

In order to create a strong habit around the “bias for action”, you need to create a system which helps to formalise that habit loop. Look for what trigger might push you to take action. Maybe you’re trying to lose weight and you want to go for a run each morning. Putting your shoes by the foot of your bed might be the motivation you need to get up and run first thing in the morning.

Maybe you need to get better about completing your work assignments on time, so you set aside two hours each Monday morning of uninterrupted time to plan out your week and schedule your most important actions. Whatever systems you put in place, make sure to make them as simple as you can. The more complex your plans are for jump starting your action habit, the less likely it will be to succeed in the long run. You don’t need a grand plan, you just need to start now.

How do you make decisions quickly and efficiently on a daily basis? Let us know in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

McVal is the founder of We Write For Growth, a platform for businesses to connect with talented writers and researchers and growth hackers. He is also the author of How to Make $2,000 a Month Online and Start Up your Life: Why we don’t know what we want, and how to set goals that really matter. McVal writes about motivation, decision making, and strategic thinking. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in Spanish, and has since worked as a market researcher and business consultant in Washington D.C., New York City and London. You can reach him on Twitter @mcval or on IG @mcvaliant. 

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Success Advice

Mindful Productivity: How Top Achievers Combine Focus and Balance

By being aware of your emotions, thoughts, and surroundings, you can work with your internal and external environments

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Mindful productivity

Your big-dream goals matter … but not at the expense of your health. (more…)

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Change Your Mindset

The Art of Convincing: 10 Persuasion Techniques That Really Work

The knack for persuading others can act as a catalyst for change, open doors, forge alliances, and effect positive change

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how to be more persuasive

Persuasion is not as complicated as it may sound. In fact, it is something that we have been practicing since childhood. Do you remember convincing your parents to let you skip school, asking your teacher not to assign homework, or persuading your boss to give you a day off? Well, these are just small examples of what persuasion looks like. (more…)

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5 Steps to Leveraging Industry Speaker Events for Career Advancement

Jumping into industry events is a smart move for your career, but there’s a knack to it

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How to advance your career by networking

Jumping into industry events is a smart move for your career, but there’s a knack to it. It’s not just about sitting in a room full of people. You’ve got to find the ones that fit your career puzzle, dive in while you’re there, and then make the most of what you’ve learned afterward. (more…)

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Success Advice

Overcoming Plateaus: 6 Powerful Strategies for Breakthrough Success

A plateau is not a full stop; it’s a comma that allows you to pause, reflect, and shift gears

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how to overcome obstacles for success

In the pursuit of personal and professional growth, plateaus are inevitable. They appear when progress seems to halt, despite your continuous efforts. But remember, a plateau is not a full stop; it’s a comma that allows you to pause, reflect, and shift gears. This article provides six powerful strategies to overcome plateaus and achieve breakthrough success.

1. Find Out the Root Cause

When facing a plateau, there is likely something causing you to sabotage your progress. Identify the root cause. What is sabotaging your progress? Examine your daily routine and how you spend your time. Are you wasting time on unnecessary activities? Or are you taking on too many tasks that you can’t handle?

Often, adding more tasks overloads your already tight routine and distracts you from focusing on the most important tasks. Therefore, often eliminating unnecessary activity will work to overcome plateaus. However, be cautious of not doing things right, such as tasks you have not yet undertaken or missing something. What actions do you need to take or improve to achieve your goal? Are you avoiding them, or have you not started yet?

2. Never Tolerate Problems

Once you’ve identified the root cause, never tolerate problems. If you tolerate them, you’ll end up staying stuck. You get what you tolerate. Once you recognize the problem you’re facing, never tolerate it. Instead, address and improve the situation.

3. Focus on a 100% Solution and 0% Problems

To overcome a challenge, it’s essential to plan how to get through it. Yet, people often find themselves asking, ‘Why is it bad?’ or ‘What is wrong with it?’ Questions of this nature limit our thinking, leading our brains to generate responses like ‘Because you’re not good enough’ or ‘Everything is wrong with you.’ These limited answers tend to resonate with the situation and drag you down further.

Instead, ask empowering questions without limits, such as ‘What is not perfect yet, and how can I turn things around while making a more positive impact?’ By asking unlimited empowering questions, you’ll shift your focus from the problem to the solution. Additionally, you will also notice that asking empowering questions can expand available options and allow you to see from an angle you couldn’t see before.

Focusing on problems rarely yields positive outcomes. The key to positive results lies in concentrating on the solution. The next time you face adversity and notice getting caught by unresourceful thoughts, snap out of it and direct your focus to a 100% solution and 0% problems.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford

4. Cultivate Success-Driven Traits

Identify the traits you need to have and get rid of to become the person you aspire to be. Consider your specific goals – for instance, attracting positive relationships. To achieve this, note down the traits you need to embrace, such as being open-minded, gentle, healthy, and treating others the way you want to be treated.

Cultivate a positive mindset. Simultaneously, get rid of traits like criticizing others, having a short temper, and engaging in unhealthy habits like taking drugs.

Learn from individuals who have achieved similar goals. Study their traits, both the ones they have and those they’ve consciously avoided. Implement these traits to align with the person you want to become.

Once you have your lists of traits to embrace and eliminate, diligently follow them. Place the list on your desk or the door of your room, ensuring you read it at least once a day to reinforce your commitment to these traits.

5. Track Your Habits

Carry a notepad to track your habits throughout the day, especially those contributing to plateaus, as well as your new habits or traits aligned with achieving your goals. For instance, if your root cause is excessive internet use, record instances of mindless scrolling on social media. Note when you engage, the emotional state prompting it, and the approximate duration.

Calculate the total minutes wasted at the end of the day. This habit tracking makes you aware of the emotions triggering these behaviors (stress, boredom, and frustration) and the time wasted.

Additionally, track positive new habits, like reading good books and exercising. Document what you’ve learned from the book and the time spent exercising. This practice helps you build new positive habits by enabling you to compare today’s results with those from yesterday or a week ago. 

Moreover, consistently sticking to new habits for around 18 months transforms them into lifelong habits. Even if you take breaks, you will find yourself naturally returning to those habits.

6. See Obstacles as Opportunities

Every obstacle can be an opportunity to turn things around. If the economy is in a downturn, it’s time to recognize it as an opportunity to thrive while everyone else is struggling and focused on the problem. If someone makes fun of you or causes you trouble, ask yourself, ‘What can I learn from this experience?’

Alternatively, consider that the person underrating you is setting low expectations, which are easier to exceed. If your business receives a bad review from a customer, see it as free feedback that guides you on how to improve and take your business to the next level.

Always try to see different angles that others may overlook. This perspective can reveal aspects you might be missing. When you view a problem as an opportunity, it has the potential to foster growth.

In the journey toward success, plateaus are just temporary pauses, not dead ends. So, keep moving, keep growing, and make your breakthrough.

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