Taking right action is a rare virtue that has been lost in today’s world.
It’s been replaced with procrastination, on-demand dopamine hits, constant shiny new distractions and doing things because they’re “edgy”.
Here’s why right action is the best thing you can do for your life, and how you can do more of it.
What is Right Action?
Right Action is doing the right thing when you need to do it.
It’s about looking out for your own self-interest and doing the “right” thing according to your own standards and morality.
It’s about resisting the temptation to do the wrong things, or to procrastinate on doing the right things.
It could be:
- Finishing that report… even if you don’t want to.
- Pushing through the last five minutes of a task.
- Making sure you get to the gym on time every day.
- Choosing to eat less and eat healthier.
- Not purchasing something.
- Purchasing something.
- Calling a friend or client back because it’s the right thing to do, even if you don’t want to.
- Going out and being social for others.
Why Is Taking Right Action So Important?
Small advantages and success
My friend Charles Ngo likes to say that success is the accumulation of small advantages over time.
And taking right action gives you lots and lots of small advantages.
Nothing will help move you towards your goals faster than doing the right things. No wishing, thinking, planning or strategising can take the place of just consistently doing the right things that help you.
There is no downside to taking right action. But there is an immense upside.
When you do nothing, nothing happens.
When you do the right thing, even if there is a bit of pain, you open the doorway to potentially good things happening.
The suffering is momentary, but the upside can be eternal.1Some would also argue that the momentary suffering builds character, discipline and strong habits.
In Stoicism, it is seen as the triumph of human rationality over our emotions.
The right thing is usually the rational thing to do, and by taking right action you are keeping your emotions in check and doing what needs to be done.
Marcus Aurelius stated that it is pointless to argue over what a good man is – it is better just to be one.
And the best way to be a good man or woman, is to take right action.
How to Live Right Action Daily
How do you know if you’re taking right action on a daily basis?
You have to start with your purpose. This is your why.
When you are faced with a choice, you should skew your decision towards your purpose – that is the right action.
At the end of your day, when you look over what you set out to achieve that day, ask yourself:
- Did I do the right things to achieve these outcomes?
- Did I push through and take right action even when I didn’t want to?
That’s how you live right action daily.
Developing Right Action as a Virtue
There are three parts to systematically developing right action as a virtue.
1. Know what right action means to you
The first part is to know what right action means to you.
This starts with your purpose, your values and your goals.
Most of your decisions and actions on a daily basis are subconscious. You don’t think about brushing your teeth, about eating food or getting dressed to go to work – you just do it.
Your subconscious knows what is “right” in each of those scenarios and acts accordingly.
With this in mind, you can think about some of the things you do daily and work out what is “right” for you in advance.
Things like what to eat, whether to exercise, whether to work or goof off, whether to chat up that attractive stranger or not.
A morning of awkwardness is far better than a night of loneliness.Hank Moody
If you know in your mind ahead of time what the right action is to take at any of these moments, you increase your chances of doing the right thing.
2. Do the inner game work for taking right action
The second part is to do the inner game work.
This means having the right beliefs, behaviours and mental models to support taking consistent right action.
Some useful beliefs include:
- Produce, don’t consume. Our default state is consumption. To overcome this, we must massively produce. Humanity was created to do, not to sit around.
- Doing the right thing is more important than anger, momentary pleasure or any other vice.
- Bad emotions are not an excuse for inaction.
- Everything is attainable with right actions and persistence.
- What other people think or do is inconsequential and cannot prevent me from taking right action.
- It is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.
An extremely useful behaviour is:
- Do it first, worry about everything else later.
A useful mental model is a gradient scale of right action – with right action on one end, and resistance on the other.
Take this scale and pick something you absolutely love doing and something you would never do. This will show you what “extreme right action” and “extreme resistance” look like for you.
And when you are faced with a decision about doing something or not, work out where on the scale you are… and move yourself more towards right action.
3. Set up your environment to help you take right action
The third part is to set up your environment for taking right action.
Have the tools, equipment and atmosphere ready for when you need to do the right thing.
Or it could be removing things like junk food from the house to so that you make the right food selections.
What To Do Next
Taking right action is one of the best things you can do for your life.
If you would like to find out more about how you can use systems and flow to take right action, download Evolution below. It’s a quick read and 100% free.
- Some would also argue that the momentary suffering builds character, discipline and strong habits.
Photo by lucas Favre.