Just Do It!

by Henrik Edberg

When I started studying self-improvement I often thought about a few of the little catchphrases I have heard throughout life.

I thought about well, how kinda stupid they were.

How self-help catchphrases like “Just be more confident, man!” or “Just be yourself” were pretty worthless pieces of advice.

And I thought about Nike’s old catchphrase – “Just do it!” – that seems to pop up from time to time too. I thought: “Well, that´s easy to say, but it´s not so easy to just do”. So I concluded that it was just another catchphrase that people throw out because well, they have to say something.

Now I can see that there is actually some really useful advice in that catchphrase. So what changed? Well, I guess I figured out that you can’t really sit and think yourself out of something. And I figured out that I was thinking way too much. And that I identified closely with what I thought and felt.

Over thinking is quite a nifty trick that you can play on yourself. It tricks you into believing that you are on your way to solve your problem. It keeps you protected against perceived dangers out there in the world like failure, rejection and embarrassment by keeping your actions to a minimum. It feeds your ego and tells you that you know more than others, that you are a clever person that has things figured out.

I still think you should make a plan or at least have some thoughts about what you are about to do before you do it. But then, “Just do it!” becomes pretty useful. To me it’s a reminder to just go. To disregard what my thoughts are babbling about, how my emotions are trying to hold me back and just go and do what I need to do. It´s a reminder to focus on the present moment and forget about the rest.

Just do it and you’ll change your mind

Just doing it is for instance useful when you don’t feel like working out. Sometimes you don’t feel like going to the gym and can find 27 reasons not to. Then it’s useful to disregard your thoughts and just go. The same goes for writing posts for your blog. You can find a lot of reasons to watch TV and slack off instead. But in both cases I have found that if I just get started and focus on what I am doing I flip around mentally. What felt like a drag before I got started instead turns into positive feelings about what I´m doing.

Even if you want to do something, your mind will often find reasons not to. And your emotions may become negative in some way. Maybe you’ll feel nervous or lazy or bored. So you may think about it and do something to relieve your nervousness or pump up your motivation.

And maybe that works and helps you to take action. And sometimes it probably doesn’t. You still get wrapped up in the thoughts and emotions that are holding you back. So you think a bit more, perhaps to find a solution, perhaps to wallow in your thoughts and feelings. And often get nowhere.

What you are not

Just doing it is still not always easy to pull off. But I’ve found a few insights that makes it a whole lot easier than it once was.

  • You are not your thoughts. Yeah, I thought this perspective sounded a bit weird when I first heard about it from Eckhart Tolle. But what I have realised is that I am not really my thoughts. I’m the one observing my thoughts. The thoughts are just something that moves through my mind. But it is not me. And when this close identification with your thoughts starts to break up you realize that they are often just ramblings that spin around and around most of the day.
  • You are not your emotions. Not listening to your thoughts too much gets easier after a while. It can be harder not to listen to your emotions. But when the identification with your thoughts starts to loosen I have also felt how I´m less tied up in my emotions.
    And the thing is, a million movies and TV-shows may tell you that you should follow your emotions. But your feelings aren’t really as reliable as pop-culture can make us think. Sometimes they just come from some outdated habitual thoughts that we established 10 years ago. Sometimes they come from how we act and move (since emotions work backward too).
    And I guess you can put a whole lot of trust in your emotions once you have recalibrated them and weeded out most of your irrational fears, anger, not-so-useful social programming and negative habits of thought. Until then you may not want to have too much belief in what your emotions are telling you. And as I wrote above, after you just go and get started you often find that your emotions can change quickly and drastically.

This is not to say that your thoughts or emotions are worthless. But sometimes – and you can often tell when – they are mostly just holding you back. And if you are less identified with them and less wrapped up in them it becomes easier to act in spite of what they are suggesting that you should do.

This can be helpful if you want to establish a new habit. You’ll improve faster and stick to your new habit until it sticks to you if you don’t fold as quickly as your mind gets over the initial enthusiasm and starts to invent reasons for you to give up, excuses for you to fail (since success can be scary) or starts producing all kinds of negative and/or protective emotions.

And the fun thing about this is that it’s kinda liberating. You realise that you don’t have to obey or act in accordance with your thought loops or emotions. It’s not the police, your mom and dad or teacher. You can just move and go do it. And so you take control of your thoughts and emotions instead of other way around.

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{ 26 comments }

ChrissyTheEA October 2, 2007 at 10:03 pm

I think it’s important that you mentioned that your thoughts and your emotions don’t control you. It’s so easy to let them take over – it’s really human instinct. I found this article at a perfect time….I’ve been considering giving up on something but now you’ve made me reconsider why I’m thinking that. It’s definitely my mind’s way of saying, “I’d rather slack off”. As you said, I’m going to Just Do It. Thanks!

Cass October 2, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Great post! Really hits the mark and applies to all of us. Thanks. :)

Thomas October 2, 2007 at 10:32 pm

This is a GREAT post!

I just love it. This is my new default start page in firefox.

I was thinking of reading Tolle’s “The Power of NOW” for a while. How does “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” relate to that book? Read it after “The Power of NOW” or before?

Thank You, this post Rocked! It’s just so GREAT. When you fully realize this, it’s like a complete paradigm-shift.

Rise October 3, 2007 at 12:11 am

Really good post. I always struggle with overthinking. I even wrote about it in one of the posts:
http://www.educatedbeing.com/2006/08/28/stop-overthinking-just-do-it/

And yes, I agree that once you start doing it, things change. The major roadblock is the start. Unless we start, we won’t move. I usually give analogy of learning to drive a vehicle with manual gears (stick-shifts). The 1st gear is the most difficult to learn but later things get ‘easy’.

Also, I believe that you become your thoughts but as you mentioned that you are not your thoughts but just an observer, it becomes more critical to understand how and what we think.

Keep writing such good stuff.

Nick Grimshawe October 3, 2007 at 4:43 am

I love your article on “Just do it!”. I have often thought a lot of our phrases carry little int he way on an instruction manuel. To get to the point where you can “Just do it” requires some build-up some learning, some study , some reading. Only when the words suddenly light up in your head, do you really “get” the meaning. As a student of Self-development myself, I always look for ways to help others change their thinking.

Small consistent changes everyday, lead to big results.

Thank you for putting many of my thoughts into works.

Dave Willison October 3, 2007 at 8:16 am

I totally agree and subscribe (mostly) to this practice, it can be attributed to ‘A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step’ and other likeminded quotes.

Just Do It! Get out there and make mistakes! Strip off the fear and realise that whatever we do, whatever we become we’re learning all the way.

Jason October 3, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Your emotions can be a useful tool for figuring out when you’re doing something wrong, though, for when you need to change your thoughts or thought patterns.

It’s always nice to have a good day when everything feels like it’s going great and all your emotions and thoughts are in alignment, also.

But you’re right… you are not your thoughts or your emotions, you just have them.

Henrik Edberg October 3, 2007 at 12:49 pm

Thank you everyone for your kind comments. I´m glad you find the article helpful and are thinking in a similar way.

Thomas: A New Earth is Tolle´s latest book – I believe – and a development of The Power Of Now I guess you could say. I personally think that he explains his concepts in a more practical way in it and also explores things that wasn´t in The Power of Now. I´d recommend starting with A New Earth since it´s more lucid and in-depth. Both books are really great though. They can really be a big help in changing – in a positive way – how you perceive reality and life.

GreatManagement October 3, 2007 at 3:03 pm

The best 3 word slogan around – ‘just do it’.

Another one I use regularly is ‘give myself permission…’. Quite often, one has to give yourself permission to do something. It might be a quick power nap or a have a piece of cake!

So ‘give yourself permission…’ today.

Andrew

Henrik Edberg October 3, 2007 at 3:17 pm

Great Management: That´s a good one too to go beyond your own limitations. I´ve actually been working a bit on an article on giving yourself permission that´ll probably show up on the blog sometime in the next few weeks.

Christiaan October 4, 2007 at 4:37 pm

Hey, I like your post. I wrote something alike a while back on my own blog, though it was a bit shorter and less well-explained (http://www.christiaanlam.nl/?p=29).

Another great technique by the way to have more fun and motivation in doing things is replacing ‘I must do that’ by ‘I want to do that’; that makes it easier to say ‘I do not want to do that’ and if you feel that things need to be done, that means you want them done and it does not mean some inexplicable force makes you do it (must be done).

Back on subject: It is interesting to say that you are not your thoughts of emotions; because you actually are. It is just that in the end you will only be remembered by your actions and results, and not the thoughts and emotions that preceded your decisions.

Keep up the good work, I’ll check in from time to time

Christiaan

Todd October 4, 2007 at 5:34 pm

really nice article…I like the point about how we are not our thoughts…but the one observing them. Meditation is a great tool to further understand this. I ALSO love the catch phrase “how you do anything is how you do everything”…which helps us focus on how the “little things” matter! Iwrote an article about this one…if you’d like to see! http://www.wethechange.com/why-your-smallest-actions-define-you/

Helen October 5, 2007 at 8:30 am

Great insights. Understanding our thoughts and emotions will surely help us achieve those things. Everything has a solution if we know how to find it.

Pamela October 8, 2007 at 5:22 am

Wonderful thoughts about that catchphrase “just do it”. We always have a choice to do things the easy way. We just need the right mind set to do it successfully.

Mike Pedersen Golf October 10, 2007 at 2:30 pm

Great post! I have a motivation section on my blog, and need to have some solid info in there, so maybe your blog can strike a fire in me and get me to “just do it”.

Natsu October 12, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Funny, but it made me feel a lot better
Thanks

Linda James March 14, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Great article as usual!
You should really collect these into a book.

neville dcosta April 10, 2008 at 9:59 am

great article

volker May 28, 2008 at 9:37 am

Thank you for your thoughts, they came in just the right moment!

DSEPHX June 3, 2008 at 9:24 pm

I came across this in the archives, and I thought about the exact same thing one day. “Just Do It” is really a great catch phrase, especially with different types of anxieties. More like you’ve said in some of your blogs, about letting those feelings come and go, Just doing THAT! in observation is quite a feat in itself for someone with fears or anxieties, and progress, is actually a product of action, which is put into motion by a person Doing, not by what a person is thinking! Anyways, this is an amazing blog, and it’s quite large, I’ll try not to get stuck reading. =)

Dick Ellingson July 3, 2008 at 12:49 am

In my opinion (or as politicians say, “In my judgment”), the most silly, meaningless catch phrase is, “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” I once asked a boss what he meant by that. His eyes narrowed, he replied something silly and meaningless, and I knew that my days with that company were numbered.

But regarding “Just do it”, my idea is to just do one thing if that’s all I can manage today. That’s still one fewer thing for tomorrow – not a hundred on my list, now there are only ninety-nine.

And don’t spend a lot of time deciding which of the 100 is the most important. Just do one of ‘em.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Donna September 1, 2008 at 7:29 am

Your blog is amazing. I’m so glad I stumbled across it. My life is changing rapidly and I lost a lot of confidence in myself. I’ve been walking around in the dark. I feel my confidence being rebuilt as I meditate on your articles. Thanks.

Saidely February 24, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Again very insightful

you showed us what i called the “extracts” of most important books here in your own wording and a little more.!

Its important and scary at first , and needs real men and women with huge determination and focusing .

So , we will go ahead and don’t waste time any more and JUST DO IT.

Best of luck
Saidely M.
Iraq

ravelohravel June 17, 2009 at 3:15 pm

unconditional success by nick williams is also a brilliant book. it explains about which is your trueself and which is the ego that is playing the part in life. if you have not read it, give it a go. if you have, i’d like to know what you think of it.

Anonymous September 10, 2009 at 7:21 am

Sehr informative Seite. Vielen Dank für die Infos!

Vijay September 28, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Great Post,
i am a overthinker and like you said I fool myself into thinking that i am doing things.
What I found useful was I allocate 20% of a tasks time to thinking time and 80% to doing time. Whenever I catch myself thinking above the 20%(unless the task changed and requires rethinking) I stop myself and I force myself to finish the task before thinking again.
Hope this helps other over thinkers too.

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