Self Leadership: Week 3

The relationship between action and purpose

What most people don’t understand is that passion is the result of action, not the cause of it. Discovering what you’re passionate about in life and what matters to you is a full-contact sport, a trial-and-error process. None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity until we actually do the activity.

— Mark Manson

We all know the famous saying: success is 90 per cent perspiration, 10 per cent inspiration. It’s a message you hear the world over when speaking to successful leaders and entrepreneurs—success is less tied to knowledge, talent, or genius than it is to action and good old-fashioned hard work. The blood, sweat and tears factor.

Of course, action needs to be supplemented by knowledge, but nothing will happen without that crucial first step into the unknown. You can never become successful at anything without taking action. To strengthen this idea, action in the physical sense, aka exercise, also gives us those crucial endorphins to energise and focus our minds, ensuring we are primed for change and growth.

When we look at purpose, the same theories apply. It doesn’t matter how many meaningful, inspiring or downright revolutionary ideas you come up with, if they remain unacted upon then you are no closer to uncovering your purpose. That’s why the ability to ‘act’ makes up a core pillar of the ‘R.E.A.L’ framework—we can’t embody self-leadership and move towards purpose without taking action.

How action leads to inspiration

One of the most surprising things about motivation is that it often comes after starting a new behaviour, not before. We have this common misconception that motivation arrives as a result of a strike of inspiration, perhaps after watching a motivational video or reading an inspirational book.

However, motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Getting started, taking action towards your purpose, even in very small ways, is a form of active inspiration that naturally produces momentum.

Commonly, action is looked at via the following formula:

Inspiration > Motivation > Action

In practice, here’s how it really works:

Action > Inspiration > Motivation

More often than not, action comes first, not last. Action creates inspiration. Action creates luck, creativity and motivation. And the interesting thing about this is that it’s not simply a three-part chain as illustrated above. In fact, it’s an endless loop:

Inspiration > Motivation > Action > Inspiration > Motivation > Action > Inspiration > Motivation > Action > Etc.

Your actions create emotional reactions and inspirations, which then move on to motivate your future actions. It follows that, if you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life such as working towards your purpose, then just doing something—however small—can help you harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.

Set up a schedule

Inaction can often be a result of simply not being precise enough about how you will allocate your time. If we don’t actively schedule in a time to do something, then we essentially leave it to chance.

Setting a schedule for yourself seems simple, but it puts your decision-making on autopilot by giving your goals a time and a place to live. It makes it more likely that you will follow through regardless of your motivation levels. So stop waiting for motivation or inspiration to strike you and schedule in time to focus on your goals.

It’s never all or nothing

Often, people have an all-or-nothing mentality when looking at their choices or where to start in the search for purpose, which makes any movement or action that much harder—’I have to quit my high-paying job and be financially strapped if I follow my dream of non-profit work.’

The reality is, there’s always a middle ground. Do your research, dig around a little and be diligent about finding a happy medium. In the example above, you could cut your hours back at your current job, and work part-time for a non-profit. Or think outside the box: keep your job and start your own charitable foundation. Reframe that idea that something isn’t worth doing unless you go all-in, and test the waters a little.

Action leads to more action, which also opens up opportunities you may not have considered. You have to trust that movement is positive, and that you have the ability to continue to create opportunities for yourself.

When you let go of predicting the entire journey, you can focus on the more manageable decisions. Like where to start!

Activity 1.png

Take action

Last week, we spent time writing down all of the things that interest or captivate us.

This week, I want you to pull up that list, and apply the Action > Inspiration > Motivation principle we learned above. Take the first step!

This task will look different for everybody. We’ve all got different goals, and we’re all at different stages of our journey.

If you’re someone who has already narrowed down your focus to one main goal or purpose, then take action towards that goal.

If you’re in the information-gathering phase of your purpose journey, then pick two options from last week’s list of activities that you are interested in or captivated by. Pick the ones that resonate with you the most, but don’t overthink it.

Start small. Schedule in two 15-minute blocks in your calendar for this coming week. Use your support network to help you carve out this time in between work, kids and life! Ask a partner, parent or neighbour to take over.

Within the first 15-minute block, look around you for potential role models and mentors. Ask yourself who is really leading the kind of life and doing the kind of work that you envision in the next phase of your life?

In the second 15-minute block, initiate a courageous conversation to find out what they like most and least about their work or relevant activity.

Activity 2.png

Share and support

This one is super simple, and is all about keeping us accountable to our goals and supporting each other through our individual journeys.

Share one action or realisation/reflection that helped you on your journey towards purpose this week.

After you have written your post, pick another group member’s post and comment with some words of encouragement.