When we think about creating change in our lives, most of us think immediately of action.
We think about what we can do—the classes we could take, the people we could serve, the projects we could complete, the risks we could take.
We want to jump in with both feet. We’re eager to get going, to start doing something that will take us where we want to go.
But action, on its own, isn’t enough to get you there.
In fact, it can quickly devolve into something more like “spinning your wheels,” if it isn’t handled correctly.
How can you make sure that doesn’t happen? By paying attention to your thoughts.
Action and thoughts
We talk a lot about thoughts. In fact, we’ve done a lot of research into the science behind thoughts.
But in order to manifest themselves in tangible ways, thoughts must be allowed to motivate and inspire our behaviors. Otherwise, they exist only inside of us.
The power of thought is limited without action.
On the other hand, action is also limited without thought. Action without thought is more likely to be reckless or destructive. It’s more likely to be a reaction to something someone else said or did, rather than a deliberate choice we make to move ourselves forward.
(Quick note: this doesn’t mean that you can’t act instinctually, or even spontaneously. Rather, it means that you are well-acquainted with best, most-useful thoughts, enough so that your actions are powered and motivated by them, even if subconsciously.)
Our most powerful actions will be the result of carefully choosing thoughts that will inspire transformative, positive behavior.
Self-awareness—knowing yourself—is one important result of deliberate action.
When you act carefully, based on your thoughts, you are able to become more aware of how those thoughts can create real change in your life. You can connect the dots between thought and action, and can start to see how carefully choosing your thoughts dictates the way you live.
From there, self-awareness motivates you to design your thoughts in such a way that they will inspire positive action that propels you forward.
And before you know it, this upward spiral leads you to a place where your positive actions are becoming healthy habits that continually bring you closer to the life you want to live.
(For more information about self-awareness, including some other ways to build it, check out this Lifehack article.
Action and the Egg
Perhaps this is why action is the third and middle step in our Egg framework: it represents an observable connection between your inner thoughts and your outer behavior.
The Egg provides a framework that demonstrates the progression you follow as you choose and then learn to design a life full of happiness and peace.
In the Egg, action isn’t the first thing you do. You’re not “jumping in with both feet,” like we mentioned before—cutting straight to the “doing” with none of the “thinking.”
Instead, we use hope and belief as a foundation to get us to a place where acts are driven by carefully-chosen, useful thoughts. As our actions become even more closely aligned with our thoughts, we develop self-awareness, and then, we’re really off to the races.
Of course, it’s important to note that action isn’t the last stage of the Egg, either. It alone does not equal happiness or a heart at peace. Instead, your actions—repeatedly driven by your thoughts—can help you you move down the path toward greater purpose and meaning in your life.
Without this step of action, you wouldn’t be able to see your thoughts come alive and impact you and the world around you. This would make it much harder, if not impossible, to find purpose or meaning within those thoughts and corresponding actions. Over time, this could leave you feeling uninspired, overworked, and lost.
Taking the first steps
How do you know what to actually do? How can you start letting your thoughts guide your actions? Here are some quick tips:
- Record your thoughts. It will be easier to tie action to thought if you have a record of your thoughts (a notebook, journal or app like Evernote can help).
- Meditate. Meditate can teach your body how to respond to thoughts. This can help you as you try to put your thoughts to work through your actions (consider the wonderful meditation app, Headspace).
- Ask others. While you’re still building self-awareness, it’s generally easier to ask other people how they observe you. Which of your actions stick out as memorable to them? How do your actions affect the world around you? Being aware of these actions, and working to tie them back to thoughts, will help you shape your thoughts and actions in the future.
- Find solutions. When our bodies go into “fight, flight, or freeze” mode, we are ignoring rational thought and letting our “lizard brains” take over. Instead of letting that lizard brain guide you, take a minute to pause and allow your human brain room to think of more creative ways to solve the problem. The solutions you come up with will guide your actions in a more productive way.
Deliberate action is a vital part of creating happiness. You can become the person you want to become, and your actions will be a powerful tool for getting you there.
If you want to be better, do better.
Want to know if action is the thing you should be working on right now? Take our free Egg assessment to find out where you’re at in your own personal Egg, and how we can help you progress from hope to meaning, one thought at a time.
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