Ready for actionBefore reading this post, think about an action you’ve been putting off. What is so daunting about this action? What is easy about this action?

In our last Twitter chat, #kaizenblog, we discussed the “Dangers and Advantages of Taking Action”. As always, it is well worth reading the transcript Transcript for #kaizenblog – AdvantagesDangersofTakingAction

The most interesting thing about taking or not taking action is what is going on in our thinking. That’s where this chat’s conversation focused. Most of us have the tools or know where to find them (or someone who can tell us where to find them). Taking the first step really is based on our thinking.

What are the dangers and advantages of taking information? Deb Morello jumped in with her response, “Believe advantages of when to take action and when not to take action is part instinct and part “learned skill” from experiences.” Patrick Prothe (@pprothe) Some don’t take action to keep their options open. For fear of making wrong decision vs. iterating, learning from mistakes. Also avoid action until they uncover one more data point to support their cause. & then delay further b/c of new info.” Prothe’s two themes were echoed by others as potential dangers. Josip Petrusa (@josippetrusa) tweeted, “Danger: A backlash, wrong decision. Advantage: leadership, strength. The circumstances of the situation are also important.” Stephen Denny added a further follow-on with this delineation, “Taking action subsets: taking an option (low risk, uncertain confidence), all-in (high risk, high confidence). Big diff”

There was a lot of discussion about how not planning ahead and not having enough information. The catch with not having enough information can be doubled-edged. The first is that not having enough information does limit good decision-making and critical thinking about a situation. On the other hand, as Patrick Prothe pointed out, it is easy to delay when you use your perceived inadequate information as an excuse to avoid moving forward.

Underlying much of this is a lack of confidence. But as Chanelle Schneider (@WriterChanelle) pointed out two other fears that may be behind a lack of action, “…fear of backlash or lost support.” With this in the background, there were recommendations to use critical thinking and do a risk assessment. Some of this may depend on the size of your organization and the type of task you are avoiding.

There were two other perspectives that were important to include with the advantages and dangers of taking action. Diane Court (dc2fla) reminded us, “It’s essential to put considered action in perspective. Most of what we can do can be adjusted (not final, not devastating)” An additional aspect to what’s behind the choice to take action or not was put forth by Tom Asacker (@tomasacker), “Lack of action reveals lack of passion and purpose.” Mr. Asacker’s point is one that is commonly overlooked. How often have you not done something simply because it didn’t light your fire? Or you went through the motions because you thought you were supposed to?

The first part of the chat seemed to skew to the negative. Why do you avoid making decisions? Lizzie Pauker (@lizziepauker) answered, “So many responses go back to our emotions. Decision making sometimes  requires making check of emotions & be objective.” Josip Petrusa added partly serious, partly humorous response, “because it is easier to avoid them than deal with them, ha”  Ah, true! On the same vein, Alfonso Guerra (@huperniketes) stated, “Fear of success is powerful: people afraid of seeing what they’re more than they ever imagined.”

But what if our environment discourages taking action. There are many big corporations (and small businesses) who put bureaucracy ahead of anything else. This can be very daunting as Stephen Denny remarked, “Often in corporate situations, fear of approval/process/accountability/mgmt, etc” Makes you wonder how much is lost every day.

As I pointed out in my framing post, choice overload can act as a paralyzer. Sometimes it can feel as if all choices are the right ones. You want to do right. As Diane Court explained, “Choice overload…isn’t so much fear of action, as wanting to the “right” or “best” action 1st time out.” Deb Morello reminded us, “In the end u r true to yourself, yes, in whatever context – 4get about choice overload, what was your first instinct?” Is it that simple? Are we overthinking our choices of actions?

However, if we’re trying to act “correctly” due to passion, purpose, or some psychological issue, emotions are going to get caught up in the process. Stephen Denny tweeted, “Often huge diff betw dreams + execution. Preconceptions of outcomes/difficulty turn out differently.” Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum) pointed out, “Advantages [of taking action] are worth the effort but not until we can overcome our emotions.” Josip Petrusa added, “What’s interesting is right/wrong changes in every situation. Our ability to read situation first will decide our outcome.” So getting past all of this may lead to what we’re willing to tolerate. Some of the #kaizenblog participants stated they were willing to tolerate uncertainty, sleeplessness, and hard work. Perhaps if you aren’t willing to tolerate some or all of these discomforts, you aren’t ready to take action? As Caroline Di Diego  (@CASUDI) pointed out, sometimes we put of action because we’re not ready to handle the consequences of our choices.

 Alfonso Guerra’s earlier point about fear of success and the focus on the negatives of taking actions led to the third question of the conversation. What does success REALLY mean to you?

I5Design (@I5Design) responded, “The difference between leading and managing. Letting people succeed and fail (controlled failure) and guiding them to growth.” Other responses included feeling pride in one’s accomplishment, financial wins, feeling valued by organization, and making positive contributions to someone else. Bringing a holistic viewpoint (after all, we’re not always working), Tom Asacker contributed, “Success=love, pray, eat. In that order”

Given that we were talking about taking action, I offered the #kaizenblog participants (and the quieter members, well, aka lurkers) a challenge: State one action you will take this week that you’re putting off

  • Chanelle Schneider: Pitiching ideas to “some major news outlets”
  • Deb Morello : Taxes
  • Patrick Prothe: Connecting with one person outside of regular network “F2F” and write more consistently
  • Laura Crum: Work on my life/work/play balance
  • M Zayfert (@mzayfert): Connect with those who I met during network mixers and conferences

For those that didn’t publicly accept the challenge but are doing it anyway, feel free to tweet or send a direct message about your progress. For those who publicly stated their challenges, I’ll check in with you later this week.

For additional tips on how to take that first step:

  • Patrick Prothe: “To help with taking action, perhaps check out Action Method” 
  • Alfonso Guerra recommended the Pomodoro Technique
  • I added, set a timer for 20 minutes so you can focus on your task. When the timer beeps, you can stop working or set the timer for another 20 minutes.

What do you believe are the advantages/dangers of taking action?

What does success really mean to you?

I invite you to take the challenge: Stated one action you can take this week that you’ve been putting off.