Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from David Nurse.
Knowing and doing, while they go hand in hand, are far from identical.
Enrolling in decluttering courses and becoming a “simple-living sponge” is not the same as rolling up your sleeves and ruthlessly de-owning possessions.
So, the question becomes: How do you bridge the gap? How do you take your “know-how” and transform it into action?
By revealing your roadblocks.
The way we take action is by first realizing that we’re not, and then going deeper to figure out why.
Sure, we could chalk up inaction to too little time or inadequate resources, but often, if we take a deep, candid look, the root of our inaction lies not on some external factor, but rather, within ourselves.
Truth is, only 8 percent of people live out their dreams in life. 8 percent. That’s 92% who do not.
And the only one stopping you from doing so is… well, you.
After seeing the life-altering ripples of overcoming my own action obstacles—going from living on my parents’ recliner after a blindsiding job loss to being named one of the top 50 motivational speakers worldwide—I felt called to help others do the same.
Regardless of your role in life, you’re called to take action. To live your life, not just to ponder living it. That dream you have, be it living in a clutter-free home, switching careers, writing a book, is yours for a reason. Now is the time to make it happen.
In my new book, Do It, I discuss nine reasons (or Action Archetypes) people don’t take action and how to overcome these personal roadblocks.
Here’s a look at four of those reasons we don’t take action (and what to do about it):
1. The Allodoxaphobic
Allodoxaphobia is the fear of other’s opinions. Studies support that the irrational fear of being ridiculed by others begins in childhood. Being laughed at for bringing an unpopular toy to class in grade school, being teased for driving your parents’ beaten down station wagon in high school, being scoffed at for suggesting a new theory in a college class. All of these experiences are future triggers for allodoxaphobia, affecting whether or not you take action today.
Think about how much better your world would be if you didn’t concern yourself with what others think. Will they laugh at me if I speak up? What if this IG post doesn’t get any likes? What will my friend think if I donate this coffee mug that she bought me?
Tool for overcoming allodoxaphobia: Create a personal mantra.
Your personal mantra is a funnel of clarity for who you are so that you control the narrative of your life, not the opinions’ of others. Consider your strongest qualities, descriptive words you like, and type of people you like to be around. Then use this to build your mantra.
My mantra is: “I create an environment of exuberant encouragement.” I keep this mantra on the lock screen of my phone because I want to enter every room with this mantra plastered on my brain. A personal mantra allows you to choose your inner narrative, shaping the way you view yourself, and drowning out other’s drivel that blocks you from taking action.
2. The Perfectionist
Perfectionism, which also often stems from childhood events, has been amplified by our culture. Society’s pressure to project an inauthentic version of yourself, your goals, and your life, has created unrealistic expectations. Take Instagram for example. I bet if you went on there right now, you’d be hard-pressed to find a post where someone exposes all the failures, mishaps, and heartbreaks behind a recent success.
You log on and scroll through a barrage of polished images that may leave you feeling dissatisfied and inadequate. If your goal is a minimalist lifestyle, you may even be tempted to give up completely because now you think minimalism equals a perfectly curated home. Anything less than perfect is deemed unacceptable, which leaves you paralyzed.
Tool to overcome the perfectionist: The 90% Rule.
Consider the most challenging thing on your schedule for today or this week. What if you viewed that “challenge thing” as a challenge you had already conquered? Do you think you would have more peace and confidence about it? I would imagine so. Because you have already accomplished it.
Often, the pressure we place on ourselves leads us to trying too hard and missing our goal. Write on a piece of paper: “I’ve Already Won the Game.” Place this paper on your bedstand or bonus points for taping it to the ceiling directly above your bed (first thing your eyes will see every morning when you wake up!).
You have already won the game. Take a deep breath in; you no longer have to press 100% of the time. How freeing is that? Now you can freely take action.
3. The Distracted
Studies show that we spend around 47% of every waking hour “mind wandering” aka distracted. Distraction has become such a natural experience that we don’t notice how it prevents us from taking action. Sure, the culprit of your overly distracted life could be external. You could blame the 3.04 million apps on your phone, the 667,865 restaurants in your area, the 532 channels you are able to watch, not to mention the 64 different streaming services.
But if we’re honest, the reason for our distraction is often internal. We seek out distractions to stay mentally busy, so we can avoid facing up to the big questions—like whether we’re living genuinely meaningful lives.
Tool for overcoming the distracted: The Distraction Advantage.
Distractions are all around us if we want them to be. But so are ample opportunities to take advantage of what others have deemed to be distractions. Take a piece of paper; list your distractions on the left side and list the most important people you want to spend time with/things you want to accomplish on the right side. Now draw a line, or what I call a bridge, between them to link them together.
Here’s an example:
Distraction: I have three young kids, how can I ever find time to declutter?
Goal: To declutter one room of my house per month.
Distraction Advantage: Set up a room you want to declutter with a donate, trash, and keep box. Then play hide and seek with your kids for twenty minutes a day. While they hide, take an extra long time to find them, and use those minutes to sort through a drawer or cupboard, discarding items as you play.
By bridging your distractions with your goals, you take action.
4. The Burned
Being burned by a past event leaves you living in “what-if” mode. Your last attempt at decluttering your home, you completely backslid and succumbed to meaningless purchases. Why even try to go minimalist again? You put years into a start-up, only to see it go bankrupt. Why even try to build another business again?
The root of the what-ifs is fear. But I’m here to propose a question that should grip you with even more fear: “What if you don’t?” What if you don’t take the chance of going all in on your passion? You live in regret.
Tool to overcome feeling burned: The reverse alter ego.
Creating a reverse alter ego name can help you realize that the person you were in the past is not who you are today. Adopting an alter ego is a form of self distancing, which gives us space to reframe a situation. Kobe Bryant’s on-court alter ego was The Black Mamba; Beyonce’s stage alter ego is Sasha Fierce. Mine is Little Davy.
It makes me laugh when I say it out loud and reminds me that’s who I was when I was younger, not today. I even use Little Davy for mistakes I made a few years ago, or when I think about the times I was burned in my life. Little Davy can have those past traumas and setbacks, but not David. Not me. Not here, not now. I am a different person now and can take action regardless of my past.
By uncovering the reason you don’t take action and learning the tools to move past them, you go from knowing to doing, giving yourself permission to truly live. For a deeper dive into these four Action Archetypes (and the other five) check out Do It: The Life-Changing Power of Taking Action.
Happiness is what we all seek, fulfillment is the key to happiness, and taking action is the vehicle that will get you there.
Why not do what fulfills you? Take action—your life and the lives of those around you will only be better for it.
David Nurse is a best-selling author, a Top 50 motivational speaker (as named by Real Leaders), and podcast host of the David Nurse Show. He has worked with more than 150 NBA players, coaches, CEOs, and Hollywood actors, helping them transform their mindset to succeed at the highest level. His third book, Do It: The Life-Changing Power of Taking Action, releases May 2nd.
I think the tip about imagining that you have already accomplishing it could work for me. It would alleviate the anxiety about the outcome if I already accept the outcome as fact. I’m looking forward to reading the book!
Scotty Ball says
“I create an environment of exuberant encouragement.”
THIS is an amazing mindset! I plan to copy that into my own life and thank YOU for this great wisdom!
I see myself in a couple of these and appreciate the helpful steps to get out of my own way. Thanks!
Tony Wideman says
I firmly believe that every living thing is unique because it survives. It’s the best ever created because most have become extinct.
Still, humans create so many obstacles to prevent us from living the life we would like to live.
I guess the harsh reality is if you are not living the life you choose it’s probably your fault.
GREAT article! Your book “Things That Matter” and David’s book “Do It” are the best books I’ve read on how to live a life with more meaning/purpose and no regrets!
I would add that not taking action is itself an action. It’s a decision to not change, usually based in fear (1,2 & 4) using 3 as justification. We are to “busy” to deal with our fears that hold us back. Facing those fears is uncomfortable so it’s easier to stay exactly the same.
Frances Wise says
In May 2022, I quit my job of 18 years. This was on the timeline of our life (to quit when our youngest graduated from college) and we were ready. Our parents were growing older and we knew that we would concentrate more on their care. In September 2022, our house burned down. Needless to say, I felt like I was left with no house (though I’m now clutter-free!), aging parents, and no job. THIS has been a complete change for me. Nothing is comfortable. I’m left with asking myself everyday “What fulfills me?”. It is an effort to focus on finding myself and exploring new options to get my life back on track. After the fire, I started writing (something that I had never allowed myself to do for fear of what other people might think). I posted some of my writings on social media. To my surprise, they were “accepted” by my friends. People were posting that they never knew I was writer—me, either, for that matter!
I am still trying to establish my strengths and weaknesses during this process. But, even by succeeding in that small area, I feel like I have more of a backbone to achieve more.