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Do You Make These 5 Mistakes When You Try to Take Action?

Do You Make These 5 Mistakes When You Try to Take Action?
Image by Abnel.

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk – and to act.”
Maxwell Maltz

What is holding you back from taking action?

Well, here are five action-related mistakes that I have made many times. I still do. Not as much as I did once though. Things are gradually improving.

These are the just some of the ways to hold yourself back in life, stop yourself from taking action and getting what you want. There are more ways of course. But this time I want to focus on the five most essential things that I think is holding me and a bunch of other people back.

1. Take your thoughts too seriously.

Thinking is often hyped up to be the best thing since sliced bread. In many cases it’s just holding you back. My perceptive is this: I am not my thoughts, I’m the observer of them. This allows me to not get too wrapped up in them. And to avoid thinking that what they are telling me is some kind of absolute truth. Often it’s just stuff that isn’t so useful that is boppin around in my head. And you realize you don’t have to take the thoughts so seriously. You can disregard them if you like.

With this perspective it becomes easier to get some distance to your thoughts and be in control of them instead of being controlled by your thought patterns. This allows you to take action despite whatever thoughts may be telling you. Common sense is of course necessary, but I think we often know what thoughts we should listen to and what thoughts that are just negative nonsense.

2. Take your emotions too seriously.

There is a time to listen to your emotions. There are a lot of times when that is not such a good idea. Again, to me, emotions are something that I’m observing. This allows distance to them and enables you to take them less seriously if that is useful for you in a situation.

If you have a negative emotion that is holding you back from taking action, then what can you do besides learning to take it less seriously?

One thing is to just accept that the feeling is there inside of you. Instead of rejecting it and trying to keep it out – thereby feeding more emotional energy into the feeling and making it stronger – let the feeling in and accept it. By just feeling the feeling fully without putting a label on it – you just observe it – you can reduce the power of the negative feeling within a few minutes. And then you can move your focus to taking action without – or with a smaller – feeling of uneasiness in your stomach.

Another way is simply to reframe how you view the situation. If you fill it with dread – via your thoughts – then you won’t feel like taking action. If you change how you look at it though, you can often change the negative emotions into positive ones. A useful way to reframe a situation is to ask yourself: what is awesome about this situation? This way you can start to look at it through a new, more positive set of lenses and at the same time pump up your enthusiasm which makes it easier to get started.

Taking your thoughts and emotions less seriously when needed is like everything else. It’s a habit you build and grow stronger. You are slowly and gradually able to get less and less wrapped up in your thoughts and emotions.

3. Listen too intently to other people’s negative opinions.

I’ve mentioned this several times before. What people say about the world and about you might not be so much about you or the world you live in. It is often just about how the person that said it feels about him/herself and is projecting that on to his or her surroundings. If they are sharing negativity then that is more of reflection of them then of some certain reality.

Of course, there can be valid criticism of you or of some idea you might have. But on the other hand, a lot of negative opinions is based in how the one criticising sees the world, how he or she might want to be right in a conversation, how it is a way to strengthen his or her view of reality and to create a sense of security and feeling that everything is as it has always been.

I think you should listen to the opinions of people. Especially people who have gone where you want to go. But in the end try and make up your own mind as much as you can. And just try things out, experiment and see what works instead of listening too much to other people’s predictions.

4. Not creating enough energy within.

Without a good amount of energy within it becomes harder to take action. If you manage you basics well then you will have more energy to use to transform your ideas into reality. So if you get enough sleep, eat healthy and work out then you are giving yourself an advantage.

To me – since I sleep and eat pretty well consistently – the most important part is working out regularly. It just makes you feel more energetic and decisive and taking action becomes easier.

5. Overplan, overread, overthink.

Overdoing things tends to not be such a smashing idea. It may sound like an excellent idea, but in my experience it often just devolves into more confusion and fewer things getting done.

Overplanning is one way of doing this. To ensure that everything will work out perfectly, you work on devising the perfect plan. You can certainly make a plan that addresses potential problems that may show up along the way as you are implementing the plan. The thing is just that when you put your plan into action stuff you hadn’t thought about can happen.

A perfect plan will probably be impossible to come up with. So after some planning it’s often better to take action, get to work with implementing the plan and addressing the unexpected stuff along the way when it shows up.

Overreading is another way to hold yourself back. You figure that you should read one more book or article and then take action. Maybe tomorrow or next week. Reading too much can also cause quite a bit of confusion as different experts may hand out different advice on how you, for instance, can get in shape for the summer. So you read more and more to find the best way to get in shape.

And it feels good too, because you are working towards your goal and educating yourself. However, to get better actual results it might be more useful to just take in some basics, learn a little about some common mistakes that beginners make and then just go to the gym.

Overthinking is popular way to procrastinate. It can cost you a lot of time as you imagine future, negative scenarios that probably will never materialise in the real world. In my experience, getting stuck in overthinking things only makes them more complicated than they are and can easily pull you down into a negative thought spiral where taking action become more and more scary.

So, overdoing things may sound like a good idea. You are doing more of what is good to do which should be even better. Planning, reading and thinking are three things that are seen as something very good in society. And they are. But you can’t replace taking action just by adding more of these things.

Another sneaky problem is that all these three things can make you feel like you are making progress. And that feels good. So you continue doing them, instead of taking action, and replace a realistic feeling of making progress – during the time you are not overdoing these things – into a false sense of making progress.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Hey, I used exactly the same pictures in my post “Gain Freedom By Disabling Your Network Connection” on Streamlined Mind. I have to admit, it’s a great shot 🙂

  • Amber

    I’m almost positive that the last one totally applies to me. I’m somewhat of a worrier and as a result I use thinking and planning to give myself some sort of relief from the situation. However – I DO get things done depsite my worrying. I know that if the object of my worries remains I will only continue to worry about it, therefore I invest a lot of energy changing that worry into either another more positive form or removing entirely. However, it does take ALOT of time to accomplish.
    I guess its really not an issue of “just one more book” its a question of “Do I really have all the information that I need to make a smart decision if I need to?”

  • I think #5 has been my biggest weakness towards taking action in my life. I’m much better now, but I know I still need some improvement. I finally figured out overplanning,over reserching was just sucking up all my time – ie. it was a waste of time. Some is good, but you’ve got to have a balance.

    I like your suggestions of taking in the feeling. It’s about bringing it to consciousness. An important thing to note is that thoughts always come before feelings or emotions. It’s important to recognize a feeling. Then a person can figure out the thought that preceeded it. I teach people to recognize the top 15 thinking errors so that they can then reform these negative thoughts into accurate thoughts producing positive emotions. Learnging that we can control our thoguhts and feelings is very liberating.

  • Interesting post. I think the 5 points above can be affected by how you handle your “energy”. Work at your energy so that it remains constant throughout the day and doesn’t get affected by outside forces like bad thoughts or negative emotions. This is why I recommend people adapt a meditation practice for the purposes of cultivating their energy. To have an enduring temple, start by building a sturdy foundation.

  • The one of those that causes me the most grief is listening to others opinions. After all, we all want approval from those around us. Fortunately I learned several years back that I only need to please myself and that others are not always going to approve.

    As I always say: Don’t share your goals with trolls (little evil things that live under bridges) . . .

    Stanley Bronstein
    Attorney, CPA, Author, Blogger & Professional Motivational Speaker

  • The courage…that is the big question. People can think of many things what they want, how they gonna get it, but the first step is to overcome the ‘hesitation’, ‘procrastination’, ‘fearful’ and all sorts of negative barriers.

    I think people around eg family and friends, although sometimes the society have great impact/influence to how our take the first step getting what we want, hence change our perception about surroundings and our expectations..

    It is complex. I believe each one of us related to each other and play huge role in other’s life. Human relationship is not only between us and our family/friends. But also everybody across the ocean, who we never know.

    I like your blog 🙂

  • Stephanie

    I have been guilty of all of the above but #2 really resonates today.

    “A useful way to reframe a situation is to ask yourself: what is awesome about this situation?”

    My upstairs neighbors are moving in above me. Their music is pounding. What’s awesome about that? It’s probably a sign that I need to get out of my apartment.

    Thank you Henrik!

  • Interesting post Henrik. One I often find myself guilty of is not committing wholly or taking action with the best I have got. This way is doomed to failure. One should either take action or not take at all.

  • Hey Henrik!

    This is a great piece!

    I had a paradigm shift when you said “I’m not my thoughts, I’m an observer”

    I just want to add that further evidence to this is that our thoughts are actually a combination of our memories from the subconscious mind.

    And since we’re creating ourselves everyday and NOT the combination of our past events, I believe you made an EXCELLENT POINT Henrik!


    To Constant & Never-Ending Improvement,

    The World’s First Teen
    Personal Development Video Blogger

  • I either overthink and NEVER START or I veer wildly the other way and DONT THINK ENOUGH and jump in too fast.

    ahhhh happy medium.

    you elude me.

  • It’s a pleasure find my photo here. Great and Interesting post.


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