Instant Confidence: The Power to Go for Anything You Want by Paul McKenna PH.D. (2016)
MOTIVATE YOURSELF FOR SUCCESS
Get the Action Habit
The Master Key to Success
A friend of mine had just launched a new business idea in record time. When I asked him how he did it, he told me it was really quite simple.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase—just take the first step.”
MARTIN LUTHER KING
“I realized that if I just spoke to five people a day about the project,” he said, “that would be 150 people in a month. And I knew it was a good enough idea that if I talked to 150 people about it, somebody was bound to be interested.”
What he said was particularly fascinating about the process was that for the first couple of days, he really had to push himself to phone people. Every time he picked up the phone, he felt an uncomfortable feeling in his stomach and heard his internal voice tell him there was no point in even trying, and that the other person could not possibly be interested. He got so sick of it that he said to himself “fuck it,” pushed himself past the feeling and straight into action. By the third day, the feeling of discomfort had lessened considerably, and it was becoming easier and easier to make the calls.
By the end of the first week, he felt the feelings of discomfort for less than a second before each call, and it became almost easier to pick up the phone and take action than not to. Before he even got to the 50th person he made the deal.
What was the key to his success?
HE TOOK ACTION EVERY SINGLE DAY UNTIL HE REACHED HIS GOAL!
When you take action every day towards what you want, it gets easier and easier to take the next action the next day. This is because like anything else you do repeatedly, taking action becomes a habit.
No one ever shows up to work naked, smacks themselves in the forehead and says, “I can’t believe it—I forgot to get dressed this morning!”
This is because you have practiced getting dressed before leaving the house so many times that it has become a habit—a neurophysiological program in your nervous system.
When you apply the same simple logic to reaching your BIG goals, you will find yourself mastering the action habit. Simply write down your BIG goals somewhere you can see them. Take at least one action every day that takes you closer to achieving them. By doing at least one thing for each goal every day, you build an unstoppable momentum, making it easier and easier to move in the direction you want.
The Wisdom of Uncertainty
Perhaps the biggest mistake people make that limits their confidence and effectiveness in situation after situation is to wait until they feel absolutely certain about something before taking action. Yet what sets high achievers in every walk of life apart is they have developed the habit of taking action before they feel completely ready.
“I am always doing things I can’t do—that’s how I get to do them.”
Have you ever had an idea for a product or service, and some time later you opened a magazine or walked into a shop and there was your idea? The difference between you and the person who started the service or created the product is simple—they took action.
You may say that you didn’t take action because you weren’t ready, but remember that amateurs built the Ark, and professionals built the Titanic. The real secret of the action habit is this:
TRULY SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE TAKE ACTION BEFORE THEY FEEL READY!
The action habit is a mind program that responds to the unknown by moving forward instead of holding back. While it does not ignore potential danger, it also doesn’t give in to fear. Instead of waiting for certainty, the action habit encourages you to gather information and then to move forward a little bit before you’re ready. Then, once you are already in action, you can course-correct as necessary to ensure you reach your goal.
Not only will the action habit get you where you want to go, it will ensure that you arrive there feeling more satisfied than ever before. Brain researcher Gregory Berns has demonstrated in a number of recent experiments that contrary to most people’s expectations, it is the feeling of uncertainty that holds the key to satisfaction in life.
People like what’s familiar, but are rewarded for what’s different. The more things happen the way we expect them to, the less our brains notice. But when we experience something new or unexpected, our brains light up and massive amounts of dopamine (your brain’s “motivation chemical”) are released. Then, when you achieve your goal, your brain rewards you by releasing serotonin (your brain’s “happy chemical”). This in turn increases your motivation to do more new things in the future, and physically enhances the molecular structure of your brain, increasing your capacity for even greater feelings of satisfaction.
Many years ago, a zoo had a bear who lived in a cage that was no more than 30 feet long. All day he paced up and down inside the tiny cage. Eventually the zoo raised enough money to build a grand enclosure for the bear, with trees, rocks, and even a waterfall. The day finally came when the enclosure was finished and a crane lifted the bear in its cage into the enclosure. The bolts that held the cage together were removed and the bear stepped out into his brave new world.
“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.”
What do you think happened? Did our bear friend live out the rest of his days in happiness and delight with his newfound freedom?
Sadly, no. Even though he was now in the lavish new surroundings, he continued to pace up and down in the same number of steps as he had while in his tiny cage until the day he died.
Like the bear, human beings all too quickly learn how to adapt to their limitations. This phenomenon, known by researchers as “learned helplessness,” is one of the root causes of depression, inaction, and self-defeating behavior.
But the way out couldn’t be simpler—take action on your goals, especially if you don’t quite feel ready yet.
Each time you successfully step outside your comfort zone by taking action before you are ready, your brain will reward you with increased doses of dopamine and increased feelings of confidence, satisfaction, and well-being.
And life will reward you as well …