Updated: Aug 2, 2021
For years, I have read self-development books, inspirational autobiographies, listened to podcasts and watched Ted talks. Name any famous life coach or successful business mentor and I can guarantee you I am familiar with their work. I filled every spare second of my life, learning and consuming knowledge about how to be the best possible version of myself.
After reading a countless number of books and consuming hundreds of hours of podcasts/ interviews, I found myself getting nowhere and becoming more and more frustrated with myself. I was frustrated because there was no miraculous mindset shifts or significant changes happening in my life. I remember thinking to myself - I have read some of the best philosophical books ever written, have spent countless hours listening to podcasts featuring some of the worlds smartest people – so why don’t I feel any different? Why aren’t I 100% productive at uni? Why do I still have doubts, worries, anxious thoughts? Why haven’t I mastered my mind? Why haven’t I seen the significant changes in general life satisfaction that all of these other people had clearly experienced?
The answer was simple. I rarely put any of that knowledge into action. I wanted to go straight from the person I was at the time, to this theoretical superhuman who had their life in perfect order and could achieve any task put in front of them. I was too busy trying to piece everything together in the pursuit of living the perfect life. Once I still couldn’t answer the unsolvable question, I would simply read another book - determined to find the one chapter that would make everything click.
Uncomfortable truth: Your knowledge is worthless until you take action on it.
That day came when I finally understood the power of thinking less and doing more. The power of taking action. I started to understand that no amount of knowledge will ever change anything in the world. It is what we do with that knowledge which unlocks the potential for change. So, with this new nugget of knowledge, I took action. I tried my best to spend less time talking about my intentions and more time executing in real life. It’s easy to say, but something else to actually do. To be completely honest, taking action on new knowledge scared the hell out of me. I had done years of research on how to live a ‘perfect life’ which resulted in me being too afraid to actually implement these ideas in real life. Although I never admitted it to myself, my thought process would have resembled something a little like this…”I have read too many books and listened to too many podcasts, to go ahead and stuff it up in front of people. They will think I have no idea what I’m doing.” Well the truth is, despite consuming hours of content, I had no idea what I was doing - because I never tried to actively implement that knowledge in my daily life. I was simply not prepared to be vulnerable, make mistakes and potentially look like an idiot. It just happens that these are the key ingredients to growth. I am excellent at justifying things to myself and my justification for this was simple. I must be a perfectionist. I always need to know what I'm doing and make everyone happy in the process - I guess that's just who I am?
I have come to realise that perfectionism isn’t a trait – it’s an excuse. It is an excuse to avoid the vulnerability associated with taking action. It is wanting to protect your ego and not risk being scrutinised, judged and questioned. My advice: genuinely stop caring about what people think. If that's too difficult, simply care more about what you think about taking a certain action over anyone else's opinion. If you truly believe a certain action or behaviour will help you become a better person, the opinions of others usually hold very little value. Be vulnerable and take action. Being vulnerable is the bravest thing anyone can do and the benefits from taking action are too profound to be swept under the carpet.
I have great respect for people I see being openly vulnerable and putting themselves in positions they know make them uncomfortable. If you want to gain my respect, be honest and tell me you don’t know what the hell you are doing. Tell me you are trying out something new. That’s hard. That’s taking action. Within the last 12 months, I have started my own company/ brand, begun my dream PhD, published multiple peer-reviewed journal articles, started investing and have successfully trained for and completed an Ironman triathlon. Everything on that list scared the hell out of me prior to taking action. I felt underprepared and unqualified for them all. I also had no idea what I was doing half the time while trying to achieve these goals. I still have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to completing a PhD, running a business, investing, training for extreme fitness challenges etc. - but I'm proud of myself for taking action and doing my best to learn along the way.
My advice on taking action is simple. Just do it. Stop reading, learning, planning, scheduling and start doing. Reading one more book won’t make it any easier to start. Just start. Take action first, then look for weaknesses in your approach and direct your learning accordingly. If you stumble across advice that resonates closely with you – immediately stop what you’re doing and write down how you can take action on that knowledge, today. Because without the action, that piece of knowledge (no matter how life-changing the potential) is useless.
My suggested authors: Eckhart Tolle, Brene Brown