Do you ever feel stuck? I did recently and was up late one night worrying when I had an idea that changed everything. I thought: “what if you stopped thinking and just worked?” The next day I tried it and it got me back on track! The key principle that I tapped into is known as an action mindset, and in this article, I’ll explain what it is and how you can maintain one yourself.
An action mindset is when you know that doing the work gets you farther than thinking or planning. You’ll improve faster and feel better if you stop thinking and just act on your plans and ideas, even amid imperfection. Repetition is how you improve and you master repetition with an action mindset.
To keep an action mindset, do the following:
- Accept the imperfection in the repetitions by seeing each one as an experiment of growth.
- Have the self-confidence to go at your own pace.
- Know that you’ll improve faster if you act than if you think.
I’ve seen people I look up to use the action mindset to make magnificent things happen in the world and I’ve even used it myself to completely change my life.
Let’s first talk more about what an action mindset is and why it’s so important, then get into three ways you can have one yourself!
Action First Mindset
“Dreams don’t work unless you do.”John C. Maxwell
One day, a group of firefighters was on a mountaintop fighting a fire when suddenly, they found themselves unable to reach their base by radio. They were in a dead spot.
Without the guidance of their superiors, the group quickly became unsure of which direction they should go next.
Instead of moving forward as best they knew how, the firefighters stopped and waited where they were. After a while they decided to make their way down to base camp. They thought they’d done everything right and they weren’t at fault because they didn’t have radio reception.
But upon arriving, they were reprimanded for their mistake.
They learned that had they moved in any direction towards the fire, they would have left the dead spot and been able to receive direction about where to go next.
How many times have you been frozen in place trying to figure out the best goal to set, business to start, or place to go? It sucks to be stuck in life with the fear that you could make the wrong choice. Could the solution really be as simple as having an action mindset and boldly moving in any direction?
Yes, it really is that simple, and I’ve seen this happen countless times in my life.
It happened in the fall of 2020. My wife and I had been wanting to buy a house for a long time, but the market was ultra competitive, so it didn’t seem likely. We made a plan to rent an airbnb on the coast of Oregon for 3 months the next summer, which was something we’d always wanted to do.
As we were finalizing our plans and about to hit purchase on the rental, we remembered a neighbor who’d moved but hadn’t sold their house yet. We were lucky enough that they had moved right across the street from some of our family, so we got to stay in touch whenever we’d go see our family.
We eventually figured out that they had been saving their unsold home for another family, but that family had backed out. They were going to put it on the market, but we asked if we could take a look at it. Once we did, we immediately fell in love, recognizing that it was everything we wanted in a home and so much more.
About six weeks later we were signing the paperwork and getting the keys to our first home!
If we hadn’t had an action mindset and had tried to just stay put where we were renting, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this in my nice new office in our beautiful new home.
This is just one of the many ways that an action mindset can change your life. It can also make you grow faster, give you more confidence, and much more.
How to Keep An Action Mindset and the Benefits of Having One
“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking, than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.”Millard Fuller
Four Minute Books is a collection of over 1,000 non-fiction book summaries. It’s a giant in its industry, sees hundreds of thousands of visitors a month, and makes more than a full-time income.
But it all began with one idea and, you guessed it, an action mindset.
My friend Niklas Göke had the idea for Four Minute Books in 2015 when he discovered Blinkist. He didn’t get stuck planning it though, and quickly bought the domain, created the site, and got to work.
And work he did. For the next 365+ days in a row, Nik wrote one book summary every day.
He was still relatively new to writing, but he knew that he’d grow the fastest if he kept practicing. Reading some of his first summaries you can tell that he was still learning and figuring it out.
But because he stuck with it, he got better.
Eventually, search engines and people who love non-fiction books grew to love his site.
A year in, the site was getting over 30,000 pageviews a month and making hundreds of dollars a month. A year after that it was bridging in over 100,000 pageviews and making a full-time income.
Nik knew that he wasn’t perfect at first, but he ignored that and stuck to his goal. His action mindset, and the work that it made him put in, got him a successful business that he’s proud of. But he had to accept the imperfection and have confidence in his plan to excel.
Today, Nik is a top writer on Medium.com and has had his writing viewed by millions of people. To say that he is an expert writer would be an understatement. As he put it himself:
“If all we did was focus on the task right in front of us, we’d accomplish 99% of our goals and then some.”
An action mindset is one of the most important components of success. But how can you get one yourself? And how can you keep it when it gets tough? That’s what we’ll get into right now.
Accept Imperfection by Seeing Every Repetition as an Experiment
“There is no failure. Only feedback.”Robert Allen
In the spring of 2018, I was considering starting a blog on Medium.com. I had been following Nik’s work on the site and in other places online for a while and decided to email him to ask for advice. I was nervous, didn’t know what I was doing, and needed some direction and encouragement.
Nik’s unexpected response completely changed my life in more ways than I can count.
He simply said, “just begin.”
It started to sink in that I wasn’t going to figure out how to be a good writer before I started. I had to start scared and imperfect. I had to mess up a lot and learn and improve from those mistakes if I wanted to make it as a writer.
Taking Nik’s advice and in July of 2018, I started writing on Medium by publishing a post every weekday and did so for six months straight.
My first posts were awful, and I knew it, but I kept going anyway. I quickly discovered why that was so important.
Each time I put an idea out there or tried a certain wording or headline, I’d get priceless feedback that I could use to improve my next article. Feedback that I wouldn’t have had if I’d just been studying and trying to perfect my writing at first.
Six months after I began on Medium I’d written hundreds of posts and grown more than I’d ever anticipated. I was making hundreds of dollars a month and was a top writer with thousands of followers. But that wasn’t the best part.
The day after Christmas in 2018 Nik emailed me asking if I wanted to write for him. I was amazed, excited, and unbelievably grateful for my action mindset that made it all happen.
I accepted, got to work, and kept improving by focusing on doing as much as I could. Two years later I’d written over 400 book summaries for the site and hundreds of other posts on Medium and my own sites.
I eventually learned and grew enough to take over for Nik and become the CEO of Four Minute Books!
This was especially shocking to me since my first career was Civil Engineering. I came into this with no experience or degree. I actually lost the job that I had as a Civil Engineer not long after I started writing for Nik and made it through that because of my work with him.
None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for my action mindset.
Developing and maintaining an action mindset requires that you accept imperfection. You do this by recognizing that imperfect practice gives you feedback about what you’re doing wrong that you can use to improve much faster than otherwise.
I think of it as having a “Scientist Mindset,” which means that everything is merely an experiment. There is no “failure,” only data you can use to get better. A scientist doesn’t think they’re terrible if their hypothesis is proven incorrect. They just use that data to keep experimenting and figuring out what does work!
Be Confident in Your Own Pace Enough to Go As Slowly As You Need
“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, or your middle to someone else’s end. Don’t compare the start of your second quarter of life to someone else’s third quarter.”Tim Hiller
This small but mighty principle kept me going when I was starting as a writer and I’d see a fellow writer post something “better” than my writing.
But there’s no such thing as “better,” some people just have more experience than you.
That expert you’re comparing yourself to has just done more imperfect reps. And you can’t compare your beginning to their middle. Everybody that tries something new isn’t great at first, so there’s no need to be so hard on yourself.
Those that make it through know that and keep practicing anyway. They embrace imperfection and learning and enjoy the process of improvement.
Additionally, we often say “do your best” but what we really think when we say that is “It’s not my best unless it’s as good as that person.”
You have to understand that your path is different from theirs. Your best is different, and that’s okay. You’ll never be just like them and that’s good. The world needs your uniqueness, and it needs you to share that, even imperfectly.
The great mental block that we often get here is when we think “I can’t do this thing unless it’s perfect” or “until I’m the best in the world at this, I can’t do it.” This is a subconscious thought that’s hard to recognize, but doesn’t it sound ridiculous when you say it out loud?
And that’s just the trick to beating this perfectionism-you must regularly check in with yourself and ask what you’re thinking. Start speaking through those thoughts out loud and you’ll engage your logical brain so it can dismantle the irrationalities in your subconscious.
It’s okay for you to go slow. Your pace and your best have nothing to do with other people. It’s about doing what you can and focusing on the actions.
And that’s how you improve and get the results you want.
Memorize the Truth That You’ll Get Better Faster and See Results Sooner With Imperfect Repetitions
“It’s better to be prolific than perfect.”Joe Polish
There was once a ceramics teacher that divided her class into two groups for an experiment. Both groups had the same goal of creating the best pot they could.
The first group was to spend their time planning, designing, and crafting the best pot they possibly could. Their task was to make only one perfect pot.
The second group was instructed to make as many pots as possible. They were to learn and improve from each one they created, but to focus on continuing to make new pots.
At the end of the semester, it was time to determine which group had created the better pots. Which group do you think won?
It was the group that had worked to create as many pots as possible because they worked through their imperfections rather than trying to think through them.
This mindset is how Nik got to become an expert writer and how I got to work with him on Four Minute Books. Everybody you look up to-every expert, top athlete, or elite person-was prolific with imperfect action before they got to where they are today.
Take action when things are messy. Recognize that it will be messy and do the repetitions anyway. The results are worth it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to become a writer, bodybuilder, entrepreneur, or even a better parent. All excellence starts with consistent, imperfect, prolific action.
I want to finish here with one of the most well-known quotes ever. But first, I need to share a little caveat that will help you take advantage of the potential it has to motivate and inspire you.
I hate it when we start to overlook good ideas simply because they’re “overused.” The reason we repeat them frequently is that they are so true and useful! And repetition is a vital piece of internalizing truths that help you grow.
So as I share this, really think about it. Say it out loud. Repeat it. Print it and hang it on your wall and read it every morning for encouragement. It’s one of the best ways to inspire you into an action mindset that I know.
With that in mind, here is the famous “man in the arena” quote:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”Theodore Roosevelt