Get The Action Habit

Here’s something leaders in every field agree on: There is a shortage of top-flight, expertly qualified persons to fill key positions. There really is, as the saying goes, plenty of room at the top. As one executive explained, there are many almost-qualified people, but there is one success ingredient often missing. That is the ability to get things done, to get results.

Every big job—whether it be operating a business, high-level selling, in science, the military, or the government—requires a man who thinks action. Principal executives, looking for a key person, demand answers to questions like “Will he do the job?” “Will he follow through?” “Is he a self-starter?” “Can he get results, or is he just a talker?”

All these questions have one aim: to find out if the fellow is a man of action.

Excellent ideas are not enough. An only fair idea acted upon, and developed, is 100 percent better than a terrific idea that dies because it isn’t followed up.

The great self-made merchant John Wanamaker often said, “Nothing comes merely by thinking about it.”

Think of it. Everything we have in this world, from satellites to skyscrapers to baby food, is just an idea acted upon.

As you study people—both the successful and the just average—you will find they fall into two classes. The successful are active; we’ll call them activationists. The just average, the mediocre, the unsuccessful are passive. We’ll call them passivationists.

We can discover a success principle by studying both groups. Mr. Activationist is a doer. He takes action, gets things done, follows through on ideas and plans. Mr. Passivationist is a “don’ter.” He postpones doing things until he has proved he shouldn’t or can’t do them or until it’s too late.

The difference between Mr. Activationist and Mr. Passivationist shows through in countless little ways. Mr. Activationist plans a vacation. He takes it. Mr. Passivationist plans a vacation. But he postpones it until “next” year. Mr. A. decides he should attend church regularly. He does. Mr. P thinks it’s a good idea to go to church regularly too, but he finds ways to postpone acquiring this new habit. Mr. A. feels like he should drop a note to someone he knows to congratulate him on some achievement. He writes the note. Under the same circumstances, Mr. P. finds a good reason to put off writing the note and it never gets written.

The difference shows up in big things too. Mr. A. wants to go into business for himself. He does. Mr. P. also wants to go into business for himself, but he discovers just in the nick of time a “good” reason why he had better not. Mr. A., age forty, decides he wants to take up a new line of work. He does. The same idea occurs to Mr. P., but he debates himself out of doing anything about it.

The difference between Messrs. Activationist and Passivationist shows through in all forms of behavior. Mr. A. gets the things done he wants done, and as by-products he gains confidence, a feeling of inner security, self-reliance, and more income. Mr. P. doesn’t get the things done he wants done because he won’t act. As by-products he loses confidence in himself, destroys his self-reliance, lives in mediocrity.

Mr. Activationist does. Mr. Passivationist is going to do but doesn’t.

Everyone wants to be an activationist. So let’s get the action habit.

A lot of passivationists got that way because they insisted on waiting until everything was 100 percent favorable before they took action. Perfection is highly desirable. But nothing man-made or man-designed is, or can be, absolutely perfect. So to wait for the perfect set of conditions is to wait forever.

From The Magic of Thinking Big, by David J. Schwartz, Ph.D.

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