You can read as many self-help or psychology books as you want (and there’s a ton out there), nothing gets really learned as long as it is not applied to one’s own life.
In the same way you cannot call yourself a baker if you just read about bread, you cannot get better at life if you don’t put your readings into actions. Action is where things get real. You read about something, you try it out, you collect your own feedbacks, you make yourself an opinion, and you decide to integrate it in your life… or not.
And it’s no coincidence I’m making this article the first one of this blog.
BUT WHY IS IT SO HARD TO “JUST DO SOMETHING”?
Alright, this is where being slightly (hum hum) bookish is a good thing and here is what I’ve learned along the way: there are 2 strong reasons that stop us from jumping right into action.
First, human beings are lazy. Not a critic, even less a personal observation: this is a fact. We were designed at a time where resources were scarce and managing energy was a crucial skill to make sure that we wouldn’t starve and die and disappear in a couple of generations. Life changed, but in the history of time our genes didn’t change much. This characteristic of us is not controllable, this is not a choice we have the power to make. We have power over doing something in spite of laziness, but we have no power over not being lazy.
Second, human beings are afraid of change. Again, this is something that is deep down within us and that we cannot control. In the old times, change was more often a synonym of death than anything else. Food here = stay here.
This is how we are wired, every single one of us. And this is unconscious. Which means that if we let ourselves just being guided by our emotions, it’s easy to wake up everyday at noon and, well, do nothing out of the day.
But you would ask me: and what’s wrong with that huh?
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO “JUST DO SOMETHING”?
Part of the answer is that we are complex creatures. We are not just made of uncontrollable emotions and intentions. Evolution grew us this big prefrontal cortex that makes us conscious and which we have control over. These 2 systems are given different names depending on the kind of literature you enjoy reading, but I like to call them the Animal part of the brain and the Human part of the brain.
And these 2 systems have different needs, and sometimes they go against each other.
While the Animal part of us is still striving to prevent our species to disappear, our Human part is striving to make something out of our life.
So while the Animal part is making us lazy and afraid of change, what we get from it by living unconsciously is inaction. Inaction then leads to boredom and the opposite of boredom is… no, not excitement. Is it unhappiness (and the ton of other negative feelings that comes with the package).
And that’s why it’s so important.
WHAT DOES “JUST DO SOMETHING” DO FOR YOU?
It does a lot. The list below is non-exhaustive, but this is what I’ve found for me to be the most important:
1. It helps your find your passions
I can’t believe it took me so long to discover that but hey, here for you: without doing, you cannot know. You might assume, but you can’t be sure. You might have presumptions about something, positive or negative, but you will never know as long as you don’t try. Doing is a straightforward way to have a quick and certain idea about something, to know what you like and what you don’t, and to give yourself a direction. And if you’re lost, that’s when it’s even more crucial to apply the rule: just do something, anything. Get your own feedback. Decide. Keep or trash. Rinse and repeat.
If you don’t know what you want to do with your life, you’re probably just not doing enough. Ironic, huh?
It is only after having made the conscious decision to try one new thing per week that I’ve started discovering what I was really made of (to be discovered in other posts, this one is getting loooooonnnnnnnngggggg…)
2. It makes things get easier and easier and…
The more you do, the easier it becomes. There is a physiological explanation to that: when you ask something of your body, it will physically prepare itself better for your next shot. So if you lift heavy weights, your body is going to build new muscle fibers so that you can handle better the stress of your next workout. In the same way, if you meditate, your body is going to create new connections in your brain for you to reach that relaxed state more easily. It works for everything. That’s how habits get actually created.
3. It brings motivation, inspiration, and… more action
If you’re waiting to be in the correct mood to make something happen, big chance that you’re not doing much. More often that not, motivation is the result of action, not its precursor. You do something, you get inspired, you get more motivated, you do more.
Writers write. Painters paint. Musicians… music. Every — Single — Day. Ok maybe not, but you get the idea. Don’t fall for the trap of the genius who waits to get inspired, because he’s still waiting.
4. It generates self-esteem and happiness
If you believe self-esteem and happiness are innate traits, then there’s a good news for you: it’s not. What is true is that different people start at different levels and it’s easier for some to feel blessed while it’s harder for others to get out of addiction. This happens for a couple of different reasons but at the end, in any case, positive emotions are the consequence of internal generate practices (mental and physical), of a constant and conscious decision to live your life according to your own values. And in the same way an idea is worthless without execution, values mean nothing as long as they are not translated into action.
HOW TO “JUST DO SOMETHING”?
1. “Just Do Something”, consciously
I hear you. You go to work, you sit in front of the TV with chips and beers and all, you go buy stuff. This is technically doing something right? Well, yes and no. To get value out of the “Just Do Something” principle, you need to apply consciousness and ask yourself why you do what you do.
Why do you go to work? Is it because you believe in what you are doing or is it because you feel that you have to? Why do you sit in front of the TV? Is it because you’ve consciously decided you needed to take a well deserved rest or is it because you don’t want to think, face the world, are afraid of doing something, or it just became a habit by itself?
Being conscious is important because by requiring you to think about the reasons of why you’re doing something, it forces you to evaluate the feedbacks you get from doing these actions. Then it just becomes a game of discarding the things you don’t like and doing more of the things you like.
2. “Just Do Something”, small
To dream big is good. But when it comes to making stuff happen, my take is to not shoot for the moon. Whether you want to work on a huge project or you’re simply depressed at home finding nothing to do, the key to keep things moving is to start small.
Cut this project into small chunks and start focusing on the first piece. Go out of your house and start walking. Get a random bus ride. Sit down at the counter and order a beer. Whatever (hence the Just in “Just Do Something”).
As stated earlier the fact of doing something consciously, even a small step, will get you motivated and inspired and big are the chances it will roll you into even more action.
And I’m talking from experience here. I’ve traveled alone through Asia for a year and I had to apply this principle a countless number of times to keep myself out of lethargy and to act despite of fear, anxiety or laziness.
And now I’m building this blog. And you’re reading this article. And it’s kinda scary. But I know the only way I’ll be able to keep going is by “Just Doing Something”.
And by starting as small as just choosing the subject for the next post.
What about you? What can you start with now?