Planning vs ACTION: The Challenge of Implementing Change

11 11 2011

I have just read a fascinating (if not a bit confronting) piece written by Martin Osborn, a London-based entrepreneur and writer of the popular Marketing blog Finch Sells. The article reminds me of two quotes:

“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, 1452-1519

“Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live.” – Chamfort (French playwright, 1741-1794)

The key point I take from the article is not that planning is bad – because nothing significant or worthwhile ever happens without being intentional and planning to do it (and working out how). But planning without acting on it and implementing it, is far too easy to do.

Usually when we reach a point when we realise something needs to change, we have a kind of internal frustration at the way something is happening in our lives. It’s built into our psychology that we need to DO something in response to it. Almost like an animal’s “fight or flight” response to an unwanted situation (a lion turning up at the water hole).

The problem lies in the fact that our brains often fail to differentiate between the action of writing out a to-do (or to-change) list, and the action of actually IMPLEMENTING it. You’ve been frustrated at your poor state of health & fitness; or your bad financial situation; so you sit down and write a plan to fix it. You feel better having got it off your chest. Your brain then registers it as having been ‘dealt with’ and emotionally you feel better about the situation. Two weeks later you find yourself facing the same situation (and feelings) again, when your brain finally realises that nothing actually ocurred to solve the problem.

The solution? Don’t just express your desire to change and then feel better for a while and forget about it; when you want to change something, start doing it NOW. Do ONE thing, no matter how small, to begin momentum and get things moving. If you’ve ever roll-started a car with  a dead battery, you’ll know that it’s far easier to keep pushing a car that is already rolling, than to start it moving from standstill.

Read the article below, and let it challenge you. Remember: knowledge in itself is not power; knowledge gives us the POTENTIAL for power. The power is in the actions we take.

– Quinton


SETTING TARGETS FOR THE FUTURE is pointless if you can’t fulfill your targets for today. The only way to achieve something great is to stop daydreaming about it over Starbucks and start taking action when it matters. Now. This is a belief that defines how I set my goals. We have a habit of overestimating what we can achieve in a day, and underestimating what we can achieve in a year. It’s an unfortunate trait, and one that has scuppered many perfectly realisable ambitions.

How often have you found that your short term doing is no match for the long term planning? Are your notepads full of projections for the life you’ll be living in six months? Is there a plan that fits around your schedule to get you there? Notepads are a trademark accessory of the daydreamer who likes to look busy. It’s easier to scribble our intentions than to take the first step towards realising them. How many trees have been hacked down for you reiterate the same objectives over and over again? Writing them down does not bring them to fruition. The next time you commit your masterplan to pen and paper, make sure the last thing you write is the first step you will be taking. Better yet, make sure that first step is crossed off your list before you go to bed. Sleep is the great killer of plans that haven’t been put in to action.

Some people have their futures mapped to the finest detail. They decide one day that enough is enough, and promptly draw up manifestos of change that leave no part of their lives untouched. This approach to achieving big is well-intentioned, but likely to fail. We simply don’t respond well to snap re-programming unless it’s triggered by truly life changing events. And I hope you’ll agree, a moody trip to Starbucks with journal in hand doesn’t quite fit that bill for most individuals.

I have to come back to the concept of overestimating what we can achieve in a day. There’s no doubt. We can achieve a lot in 24 hours, in the literal sense. However, most of the long-term goals we set hinge on our ability to make lifestyle changes. You can’t alter your behavioural traits in 24 hours. I’ve never known a smoking addict to give up the drug on Day One, and to have forgotten about his commitment by Day Two – unless he’s failed the task!

The trouble with overestimating what can be achieved in a day is that it typically deflates our hunger to keep going. There’s no greater thievery of motivation than waking up to yesterday’s failure. It makes your goals seem further and further away. In reality, they’re still perfectly attainable. It’s equally true, and even more important to remember, that we chronically underestimate what can be achieved with sustained effort over time. We may fail in 24 hours, it’s quite likely. However, this is where your character needs to shine through. Sustained action is the big brother to your hopes and ambitions. Many of the world’s greatest inventors and innovators only succeeded on the back of a thousand failures. I doubt they needed many notepads telling them what they needed to do, just lots of hours spent actually doing.

It’s better to set yourself a million baby steps than one goal that you’ll do everything in your power to put off for another day. The real secret to long term planning is a simple acknowledgement that the time for taking action is always now. This is what separates the achievers from the believers, and those who do, from those who plan to.




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