Welcome, fellow consciousness explorers!
Last time we took a deep dive into Awareness. The objective has been to dive deeper into important topics covered in the Life Simplified – Overview series. Another important concept is that of Deliberation, or Deliberate Action.
What is it?
Big Idea: Intentionality applied in a slow and calculated pace during decision making.
Basically: Doing something with a concentrated purpose and an intent. No distractions.
I emphasize the word deliberate a lot, this is because it has proven to me to be the single most important factor in effective living. Life is not a passive activity, it requires attention to the present moment and the removal of distraction. Life is very much an active sport. To get more out of life, aim to be more active in it, which simply means to take more deliberate action.
Deliberate action is simply action that is meaningful and has a sense of duty behind the movements. It is accompanied with a strong sense of purpose. This requires attention in the present moment, also known as “presence”. The result is quality in the work being done which can come in the form of a better memory of what you were doing or learning, or in the form of work that is more impactful and requires less fixing later on.
For example, if your objective is to build muscle or gain strength but find that you are not progressing as fast as you wanted, then it is very likely that you are not being deliberate enough with your workouts. Are you feeling the muscle contract? Are you feeling like you are actually putting in constructive effort? Are you being deliberate about how frequent you lift weights or what goes into your rest and nutrition?
Another example, perhaps you are want to lose weight and find that you are frequently bouncing back to your old weight and it isn’t going down consistently. Then you are probably not approaching weight loss in a deliberate manner. Are you regularly counting your calories and taking note of what your maintenance calories are? Are you weighing yourself daily at a consistent time of day (e.g. in the morning before eating and after using the restroom)? Have you done adequate amount of research into the types of foods you are eating and when (e.g. less sugar, longer fasting periods)?
Notice the pattern between these two examples, they both demand that in order for you to make progress you must be active and putting forward effort. You can not take halfhearted steps. If you find yourself not progressing fast enough or rebounding to your old ways regularly, this is exactly why.
Why is it Important?
Big Idea: Profound growth only comes from quality, which requires deliberate action
Simply put, deliberate action is the key to long-term success. Just consider anything that you have ever achieved and are proud of, it probably required effort and the degree at which you achieved it is proportional to how deliberate you were in the steps to progress. You probably went through the standard “Hero’s Journey” cycle where you begin in a state of knowns and journey into a state of unknown, ambiguity, and risk. At some point you hit a threshold that demanded more of you and instead of turning back you kept going, such a decision requires presence and to progress through that sticking point demands deliberate action.
A single question can cut to the heart of whether or not you are taking deliberate action, and that is “Do you really want it?”. How bad do you want it? If your answers are full of excuses and hesitation than you should consider changing the process and adding Clarity before moving on since this hesitation foreshadows future rebounding and quitting. This requires a sense of objectivity and awareness. The more you commit to the change or action, the easier doing the necessary actions deliberately will become.
So what is the big roadblock to Deliberate Action?
There are several potential obstacles standing in the way of most people that are preventing them from taking the deliberate action required to make lasting progress. A large part of it has to do with a lack of Clarity, such that they don’t feel the urge to do what it takes and don’t have a strong and definitive answer to “Do you really want it?”. A lack of clarity brings impatience and allows ego to get out of control, making you think you are special due to not seeing a vital component that will ultimately be the obstacle that stops your progress.
A lack of clarity includes the added resistance in the form of ambiguity and uncertainty that prevents us from committing to the necessary action. Other obstacles include starting off haphazardly and getting into a comfortable habit of just “going through the motions” leaving you in a very ineffective cycle.
How do I Develop it?
Big Idea: Take control of the decisive moments where the urge to quit is greatest.
Basically: Move with a purpose. Learn to maintain control during the peak of discomfort.
This point of starting off haphazardly being a major cause in limiting your progress is vital. It is so important to start off deliberately in order to continue deliberately, it is far easier to take a sense of presence and deliberation from one moment to the next than it is to go from a state of distraction and haphazard action to a state of deliberation. But there is a huge caveat to this, and that is the fact that trying to match a certain level of quality early on can be daunting and prevent you from even starting. That is why it is important to understand that early on in a habit’s life the deliberate focus should be on quantity over quality. Quality requires that there is already habits in place so that your focus can be on taking the effective action instead of just showing up. You want to have the showing up part down and habituated before trying to add quality.
This is where most people mess up, trying to do too much all at once. You have a big dream that motivates you to take action but with it comes the expectation that you’ll quickly see progress, so you try to get quality down right off the bat without even having the foundation of the habit in place, which is just to have a habit of showing up.
For example, if the objective is to lose weight, instead of immediately going to getting complicated with macronutrients, meal timing, fasting, and all of that it would be better to simply build a habit that supports weight loss so that in the future weight loss is easier. This requires patience but is what will allow for the most long-term success, it can be difficult to apply the patience required when the motivation you feel at the beginning makes you think you can tackle all of those obstacles and that you’re special. A sense of awareness is required to get pass the ego at this stage and to understand that weight loss requires lifestyle changes and anything that requires changes to lifestyle will require patience and careful care.
So let’s recap, the biggest obstacle to taking deliberate action is the overwhelm of motivation at the start of an action that encourages impatient behavior and the thought that you are special or that “this time is different”. It is vital to apply a sense of awareness, presence, and humility at this stage in order to maintain the appropriate level of consciousness that will allow for the deliberate action to be carried over from one moment to the next instead of getting stuck in a downward spiral that leaves you doomed before you have even started. Take a breath and the time to develop Clarity before taking action. This is what most people get wrong when trying to build habits that stick or take effective action, their inability to control the emotional overwhelm of motivation and avoid the “I’m special” mentality.
Start off deliberate and carry that deliberation with you from moment to moment.
So what is deliberate action? It is action that comes from a state of presence where the aim is quality. It is to have an intent and a sense of duty in your actions and to move with a purpose.
Let’s consider a few examples of how this can be applied.
Consider Steven, he is studying at a University and wants to qualify for a scholarship to help pay for his tuition. In order to qualify for this scholarship he needs to complete the current semester with a 3.8 or above. Let’s explore 2 of the different scenarios that could play out.
Scenario 1: Steven sits down ready to study but he quickly gets distracted as the urge to check is phone builds. Only after 8 minutes Steven is already grabbing for his phone and quickly goes down a spiral of scrolling through social media for the next several hours. Steven barely got a few minutes of studying in and those that he did was full of fighting the urge not to grab his phone which ultimately proved unsuccessful.
In this scenario Steven had the initial burst of motivation to take action and study but his environment wasn’t set up to promote success. As the initial motivation began to diminish Steven found the urge to check his phone becoming stronger and stronger and his will to resist decrease until the urge became too much and he caved in.
Scenario 2: Steven sits down ready to study but before studying he recognizes the initial motivation to study which also came with telling himself that “I won’t be distracted”. Instead of ignoring what this might mean, Steven realizes that this is a pattern that he has been in for a while, he takes extra care at the start to remove distractions such as placing phone on silent and out of sight and going to a location which is only used as his study location. This study location is a special trigger to Steven that it is time to study, this area is not mixed with using his phone or any other distractions, it is purely reserved for studying. At the start of studying Steven makes sure to first write down that he wants to start by actively recalling the big ideas from the current chapter he has been reading and then make the objective to read the next section and finish with summarizing that section and linking the new ideas to the bigger picture from previous sections. Steven accomplishes 30 minutes of effective studying and learned more from these few minutes than he would have with 4 hours of distracted studying. Steven finds that if he is deliberate about studying for fixed amounts of undistracted time that he is able to learn faster with less time allowing him more time to relax and do whatever else he wants. The added relaxation time and release of stress only makes Stevens ability to learn and recall material easier, his grades are improving and at the end of the semester he qualifies for the scholarship, all because he took control of his actions and didn’t let his actions (i.e. the TEMPORARY emotion of motivation) take control of him.
In scenario 2, Steven understands the importance of deliberate action. He is mindful of the emotional surge that motivation can bring and he takes time upfront to be clear on what he wants, he is mindful of the objective and what stands in his way. He has Clarity. These extra 5 minutes up front for clarity makes it very clear what Steven is to do and whenever he feels the urge to do something different he can easily remind himself with the list next to him of what he should be doing. This list might even contain the WHY behind his actions so that he can be reminded of the importance of his action when he may of otherwise forgot due to the urge of checking his phone or some other distraction.
The primary reason for the success Steven has in scenario 2 is because he didn’t jump in at the first surge of motivation. There is an important point here, and that is that deliberate action is logical action comprised of self-awareness, it involves the understanding that emotions will come and go and that motivation is only temporary and can easily make you delusional, blinding you to the obstacles that you will inevitably face. If you are unprepared and the expectations are set to only be seeing sunshine and rainbows, the first obstacle you hit will be a huge wake-up that scares away whatever motivation is left leaving you easily influenced to quit. This is a big idea and is covered in more depth in The Ultimate Guide to Clarity.
Steven’s initial awareness allowed him to take control over his emotions during the most pivotal moment of any action, the start. With this control he was deliberate about what actions he took and he was able to more easily carry that deliberation from one moment to the next instead of emotion begetting emotion in a downward spiral of illogical action where learning is severely hampered and you are far more likely to jump from one thing to the next in an emotional whirlwind, as was seen in scenario 1.
What do you do if you don’t realize succumbing to motivation until after the start?
As we’ve seen in The Ultimate Guide to Awareness, awareness is developed in stages and usually begins with the awareness not coming until after the action has already taken place (i.e. after it is too late). This is the normal process of developing awareness, you first become aware of what you intended to do AFTER the action, and then you become aware at some point DURING the action, and after consistent and deliberate development of awareness you will begin becoming aware BEFORE the action or right when the action begins (i.e. during the onset of the action).
This means that when you first begin bringing awareness to anything it will first only come up after it’s too late. For example, Steven realizing that he should have started off more slowly and more deliberately with clarity before jumping in to study based on the first surge of motivation.
The important point is to develop the awareness overtime and understand that it is a process that takes time. It is okay to not be aware of your objective until after it’s too late, that is where we all start. Keep the objective in front of your mind, recall and think of it when you can throughout your day and have a strong desire to improve and you will find that the necessary awareness will begin to show up more and more when you need it and earlier on in the action.
Once you realize you’ve jumped in due to the initial surge of motivation, take a step back and gain clarity, take a few extra moments to journal, which means to simply slow down and write out logically what your intention was. Journaling is so powerful here because it is a conscious activity that demands attention in order to form logical sentences and can serve as a wonderful anchor in driving attention where you want it to go and to help slow down your mind and fend off the emotions so that you can think clearly and gain control over your actions. Writing down what it is that you want or intended to do is itself a deliberate action and is a very easy way to get control back so that you can take deliberate action from one moment to the next. Don’t overlook this.
Big Idea: Effective living comes from intention and moving with a purpose.
Basically: To do something great requires quality, develop quality through deliberation.
Deliberate action pairs with Clarity and Awareness to form the foundation of effective action. This effective action is what ultimately leads you to accomplishing your goals or achieving your objectives. Deliberate action is simply increased presence in the current moment with the intent on taking action that actually progress you forward. It requires removing the resistance to action by committing deeply to improvement, ego aside.
The key to deliberate action is to start off with deliberation, it is far easy to maintain a state of presence and deliberate action by carrying that presence from one moment to the next instead of having to regain control due to emotional overwhelm from a surge of motivation or some other driver that causes haphazard action. If you find yourself at any point during the action having not taken the few extra moments to slow down and be deliberate with your actions then it is far better to take a few steps back and recenter yourself than it is to push blindly on as your actions will lack the quality needed to promote progress and growth.
Deliberate action is the foundation in a bigger concept of Intensity of Stimulus which is the measure for how deliberate the action is and will be explored in depth next time.
Your Call to Action
Thank you for reading!
Practice deliberate action now by deliberately taking the time to slow down and share how you will apply the insights from this article. I want to hear from you about how it can apply to your life. Share in the comments section below!
Don’t put off contemplating what the insights from this article mean, find a quiet location and think deeply about what it might mean for you. Just 10 deliberate minutes can make a large difference, set a timer, do it regularly and you will notice the changes within a few weeks. You improve your ability to think and therefore make effective decisions by spending more time deliberately thinking about the relevant subject. Consider applying journaling and meditation to see more profound changes, these are just more deliberate and concentrated forms of quiet and focused thinking. Slow down, find stillness.
I am always looking to improve my reach and the impact that I have with my writing, please provide your feedback in the comments below.
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