I recently finished reading the book The Pocket Guide to Action: 116 Meditations On the Art of Doing by Kyle Eschenroeder. You may recognize this book from the Art of Manliness lifestyle website. It’s part of their “Take Action” mantra, which I find to be encouraging and helpful.
For a small book, it’s packed with useful quotes and insights for how to take action. This book was the kick in the ass I needed. I feel better equipped to take action and set out on the path that I want.
Along with some insights from his book, I wanted to share other tips that I’ve learned over the years. These add up to taking action and getting to where you want to go in life.
“Action Prioritizes Consumption”
I liked this one from Mr. Eschenroeder’s book. He explains that by focusing on action, it leaves less room for distractions. When you find yourself immersed in your work, goal, or project, you’re productive, not busy. It occupies a chunk of your time. You then have less time to fiddle around with social media, mindless entertainment, or succumb to other distractions. You’re able to focus more on what matters to you. It allows you to be proactive instead of reactive.
Time is an infinite resource. Trade-offs exist. For every hour you spend doing this, there is an hour less for that.
Planning is good; action is better
I wholly agree that planning is essential. But, too often, I try to plan the heck out of something. It’s likely a defense mechanism. I try to plan out every little detail, thinking that this will save me from any mistakes further down the line. Here’s the reality. No one can see the future. I realized that what I’m doing by over-planning is procrastinating — and wasting my valuable time and resources. Planning is good; action is better.
Planning is tricky because it feels productive. To a certain extent, it is. But, you have to know when good enough is good enough. Are you guilty of hiding behind grandiose plans? Don’t solely focus on planning and abstract ideas. Take action. You’ll find out soon enough what’s working and what’s not. Make minor adjustments and keep going. The “a-ha moments” you were trying to discover in your planning will likely show themselves in the actual work.
The hardest part is getting started
I needed to clean out my dresser drawer at home. I kept putting it off. I dreaded it and didn’t want to do it. I finally psyched myself up to do it and got it done. I felt pretty silly. It took less than ten minutes. I wasted more time fighting it and making excuses than it took to get it done.
The most challenging part of almost anything is getting started. Whether it’s a chore, a project, or a goal, do something to get started. It’s rarely as bad as you think it will be. After you check yourself for bullet wounds — and see there aren’t any — you realize, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad!” Build on the momentum. Sometimes it only takes a couple of seconds of being uncomfortable to start on a path of progress or growth.
So often we wait for the right time, place, or mindset to do something. We wait for the perfect opportunity, and it never comes. We talk ourselves out of it, time and time again, convinced that a better window would open. If often doesn’t. The best time to start on something has already passed. The next best time to start is right now.
The next step
One of the best pieces of advice I got from Mr. Eschenroeder’s book is to focus on the next step, not the next level. Setting goals is crucial. They help us grow and achieve our dreams. But, so often, we get caught up in reaching a lofty goal that we can’t see the next step to get there. We flounder, fail, and even give up — not because of a lack of ambition or talent, but because we can’t figure out the very next step.
Don’t set your sights too far ahead. Focus on the next step, the one that’s right in front of you. Then the next one. And the one after that. It may seem small or insignificant, but it is progress.
You don’t achieve goals in one giant leap. It takes smaller, incremental steps that take time and effort. It’s one foot in front of the other.
Our lives today offer no shortage of responsibilities and obligations. Personal and professional commitments demand our time and energy. It can be challenging to know where to start and what matters most. What’s important to you? Focus on what needs to get done. Take action. A small step is always better than standing still. Action is better than inaction.
Eschenroeder, Kyle. 2016. The Pocket Guide to Action: 116 Meditations On the Art of Doing. Semper Virilis Publishing.
The Art of Manliness – Meditations on the Wisdom of Action, Kyle Eschenroeder, accessed February 13, 2020, www.artofmanliness.com/articles/meditations-wisdom-action.
An article by Jason S. Sullivan, 02-14-20