I’ll cut to the chase: you will never get anything done unless you start doing it right now. This very moment.
Your intentions, your goals, the things you want to do or think about doing all the time—these are worthless. An idea unexpressed is thin air; it is nothing at all. We measure solely in terms of what has actually been done, and rightfully so. A philosopher who writes none of his ideas down, breathes no life into them on a cold spring morning or tells no one while he rambles on by the fireplace is not a philosopher; he is merely idealistic. Maybe complicated, but ultimately forgettable. Gandhi, Beethoven, or Einstein didn’t go down in history for having the most lofty aspirations or purest intentions—they are renowned for having accomplished great things. Let me say that again: for having actually done great things, not for just having thought about them.
An idea is only as good as the amount of change it brings about in the world. It has value only by virtue of being the first step in the chain of events which produces an action.
In practical terms, this means that all the things you tell yourself you’d probably be good at, and all the things you know you should do, are absolutely worthless on their own. You don’t get brownie points for knowing you should cut your lawn, or knowing you should call your family, that you should exercise without ever doing it. Unless you actually make it happen, then you have done nothing. If my tone sounds harsh, then it’s because I need reminding too!
In fact, each time you’re lying in bed looking at Facebook on your phone, and that little voice comes up in the back of your head— “Go make breakfast!”—and you IGNORE it, you have actually set yourself back a step. An opportunity has arisen, and you have turned a blind eye to it, settling for a path of action that does not reflect on the best of you. We become accustomed, over time and accumulated practice, to ignoring our own conscience. Next time that voice comes up, you are even less likely to heed its direction. “Well, all I do is lounge around all day anyways. Why trouble with making a meal?” Bad call! What are you going to eat instead? A bagel or a donut you can grab and take with you? Some crap to mindlessly stuff in your face? Get outta here! When you end up going to the vending machine on your coffee break, just know that the moment you decided making healthy food for yourself was unimportant, you effectively made a worse decision. Because now, at 2pm, looking back on what you ate at 10am and what you could’ve eaten at 8am, you now have a donut in your stomach instead of eggs and vegetables.
But there is a plus side to all this. Just like saying “no” gets easier and easier, so does saying “yes.” We are bombarded by our conscience at all times, and either you feel overwhelmed and defer it— “Oh, I’ll get around to it later”—or you accept that this is the guiding force in your life, and you make a pledge to listen, no matter the cost. And as soon as you get some momentum going, it gets a lot easier to accept this mandate. These things build, because you are really practicing the skill of saying “yes.” The only time you can do that—the only time you can turn a thought into an action—is the instant an idea strikes you, in a “right now” type of moment.
If you’re in a good space, when that little bit of resistance to a healthy idea comes up, you’re more likely to realize that it holds no power over you. “I should get out of bed… but I’m so tired. Maybe I’ll get a cup of coffee.” If you’re in the habit of caving in to your rationalizations, this could be enough to do you in. But if you’ve been good, you know you can just go to bed earlier tonight, and you will think differently. “Well, that’s ok. Even though I’m tired right now, I know I’ll get energized as soon as the day gets underway. Let’s get going!”
It’s really a black-and-white decision making process. All the grey area is purely mental, and it’s absolutely worthless. In the eyes of history, in the world of reality, either you will do something or you won’t. Simple as that.
We search for excuses, too, but they are just more ideas, insubstantial. Personality traits and predispositions really have no sway in your decision-making process (which we could more aptly call your actualizing process); they have no power over you. As a matter of fact, these traits are built from a thousand individual choices, all made in the moment. We all tell ourselves a certain story, a narrative that stretches out along the course of our lives, which we call the identity. I think it’s a human necessity to want to tell this story, so we might as well make it a good one. Go out there and prove yourself right.