Inaction has been a past problem in my life. And it’s still a problem when it comes to fitness. I’ve completely knocked it out of the ballpark in other areas of my life, though. And it happened after I stopped with the indecision and inaction. I’ve observed successful people and done some research. I feel qualified to explain- with confidence- how to overcome inaction.
Let’s be honest. It sounds a bit contradictory, but the following is true: Inaction is action. And indecision is a decision.
You’re making the choice- day by day, hour by hour- to stay where you’re at. By refusing to take action or refusing to make a decision, you’re saying “I’m okay right where I’m at.”
Motivation Grid has one definition for inaction. “Inaction deals with not doing, not responding, not owning up, not taking risks and not accepting the reality as it is. You would want something, and are willing to devote yourself for that cause, but that’s about it. When it comes to acting for the same, you are at loss of ideas.”
There are multiple causes of inaction. One is learned helplessness. While this concept relates to depression and mental illness, the underlying behaviors are consistent with human nature. Another is simply not recognizing you’re in a state of inaction. It’s easy to not make a decision. It’s easy to continue on as you’re doing. In fact, it’s human nature to fall into habits, routines, and to resist change. Another cause of inaction is fear.
So, how to overcome those? I have 10 steps below- along a few printables- to help you overcome inaction. How to recognize it, analyze it, and how to stop it.
For all of the printables below:
• Print options: regular paper works.
• All of the files are in pdf below. Or click on the image. It will open in a new window and you can either print directly or save to computer.
• The default size of these is full-page. However, if you want smaller, simply reduce the print size! If you’re looking on how to resize printables, check out my post: “How to Resize Printables to Fit Your Planner.“
How to Overcome Inaction
1. Observe the Situation
I have a task for you: Grab the printable below.
In the first column, I want to write down what your ideal life looks like. (Go to “How to Be Your Best Self” if you need help).
Second, what your life currently looks like.
Third, the difference- ACTIONS that you’re taking in your ideal life that you aren’t in your current life.
Be honest about where you want to be and where you are. It might be rough writing down something or admitting something to yourself. We’re NOT going to change all these at once. But we can’t change inaction until we recognize that it is happening. To do that we have to assess our life as it is. And the best way to do that is to compare it to something else- our ideal situation.
Analyze whatever areas of your life you want.
• Eating habits
• Fitness habits
• Money/Spending habits
• Personal relationships with those you are close to
• Relationships with casual acquittances
• Personal growth/faith
• Your weight and what you look like
Overcoming Inaction_Observe_pdf <<<Click to download “Observe” worksheet
Accuracy of observation is the equivalent of accuracy of thinking.-Wallace Stevens
2. Analyze the Situation
Analyze and decide what qualifies as inaction and a problem you want to fix. Look at your chart now that it is complete. Behaviors sometimes happen so often that we perceive them as “normal” or “typical.” Or when no one around us seems to think a behavior is an issue, we begin to believe the same. Inaction gives us a false sense of security.
As our daily needs are met and we’re not in danger (a situation most of humanity throughout history hasn’t had), evolution has programmed us to think we’re “okay.” Nothing to worry about. But merely existing is no longer- if it ever was- the goal of living. So carefully analyze each situation to determine if inaction has become a problem.
Our second printable is going to help us analyze the situation. In the first column, write down the situation in detail. A couple of examples:
1st example: First column: my current workout routine is non-existant. Details were pretty easy on that…haha. Second column: my current reasons/excuses (I’m too tired, I don’t have time, I’m out of shape and it seems hopeless to even try to get in shape). Third column is solid ACTION steps you can take to correct the situation. In my case, I’m going to commit to the tiny, small step of walking for 10 minutes every single day. When this succeeds, I’ll analyze whether to add weights and/or increase cardio time.
2nd example: First column: my current work situation is that I’m developing a product. I’m also working well on continuing eduction. Thus, inaction isn’t a problem. But I’m failing to grow in the design area. Second column: I have no idea of where or how to even begin to learn about design. Third column is: 1) Research how to learn basic design skills without going to school. Once I have some research done, take a concrete action each week to learn more about design.
3. Recognize Your Role
In some situations, it’s easy to take responsibility. It’s no one else’s fault you’re eating ice cream alone at 10:00 pm while everyone else is sleeping. In other situations, though, it’s easy to blame other people or circumstances.
This is the step where you take responsibility for yourself. Some circumstances are outside our control, yes. But the vast majority of what goes on in your life is your responsibility. This includes not having enough time. We all have the same 24 hours every day, yet some people are amazingly successful while others just wander through life wondering why they don’t succeed. If “time” is your excuse for not getting things done, read my post “Stop Feeling Overwhelmed: The 80/20 Solution.”
Take responsibility. No one else can MAKE you change your life.
4. Decide What to Change
Next is to decide what inaction is going on in your life that you want to change. You can’t change everything at once. Well, you can try. And probably do it for a day or so. But it’s impossible to completely change everything all at once. You’ll fall off the wagon in at least one area.
Now that you’ve decided on at least one area to change, do you have the skills and/or knowledge to change these things? If not, your action plan is to acquire those skills/knowledge. If you DO, it’s time to take action. In analyzing the situation, you should have already put down specific action steps to take. If those are a bit vague or you’re not sure what to do, we’ll touch on action steps a bit more below.
5. Realize: Getting Started is the Hardest Part
Realize that getting started is the hardest part. Overcoming the resting inertia of where you’re at is the hardest part. As you start to develop a habit of acting, THAT will become your new habit in life. Knowing that it will get easier over time might make it easier to start in the first place.
6. Recognize: The Longer You've Been Inactive, The Harder It Will Be
Recognize that the longer you’ve fallen into a cycle of inactivity, the harder it will be to take the steps to get out. I’m not saying this to depress you or make you think you can’t do it. But to tell you THIS IS NORMAL. Your feeling like climbing on the treadmill for a 20-minute walk is the equivalent of Mt. Everest isn’t crazy…you really feel like that. It’s a valid feeling. That doesn’t mean it has to stop you from taking action.
In fact, it should motivate you. The longer you continue to not take action, the even harder it will be in the long run!
7. Take Small Actions
If you already have action steps from the worksheet “Analyze” above, great! You’re good to go. A lot of time we already know what needs done, we just get lost in the inertia of life and don’t take the steps to get it done.
Make it a habit to write down your action steps on your planner. Planning it out makes me you more likely to do it. Plus, if you have to leave it “undone” at the end of the day, you’ll feel the sting more.
But if you’re looking at a larger goal or need help breaking it down, I’m going to share a goal-setting worksheet I’ve shared before. (So, my long-term readers, yes, you might have seen this already). If you want more information on the worksheet, check out “How to Not Reach Your Goals. Wait, What?” post.
Goal Setting Worksheet_pdf <<<Click over there to download file.
8. Ask Yourself: Worst Case Scenario?
Ask yourself: what is the worst case scenario of this action? Seriously, what is the worst thing that could possibly happen if you try this out? Failure? You’re ALREADY failing! At least you will have tried. And learned something. So you’re still ahead.
Very few of the risks in life today are physically dangerous. Even those that involve financial risk, are you going to die if you don’t succeed? You’re never going to get anywhere in life without taking risk.
The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. -Mark Zuckerberg
9. Accept Failure as a Learning Experience
Recognize that all actions will work. But that doesn’t mean it was a failure. It means you have identified a solution that doesn’t work for that problem. Now try a different solution. You’ve probably heard the quote about Albert Einstein saying he didn’t fail to invent the lightbulb 99 times, he learned 99 ways to not do it.
Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all. -Norman Vincent Peale
10. Overcome Roadblocks
In taking action: If something is stopping you from completely your action, identify it. Find a workaround. List 3-5 ways to alternately get done what needs to get done. It’s easy to fall back into inaction. Don’t let this happen to you.