Why aren’t people healthier, happier, more enlightened, and more fulfilled?
One of the critical pieces of the answer to why comes down to the importance of action and the necessity of taking action.
As touched on previously, action is a critical component of successfully making change and in going beyond merely accumulating knowledge. Through action, knowledge moves from a state of storage into a state of being.
However, even while knowing this, sometimes taking action can prove tough.
As a result, in addition to appreciating the fact that taking action is essential, gaining even a cursory idea of the ways action impacts us is useful.
(By having a broader understanding of the way action impacts us, it can be a bit easier to remind ourselves of its importance, and thus feel a bit more motivated.)
Put simply, through action we gain a greater understanding of what we’re learning, what we’re interacting with, the nuances of our environment, as well as ourselves and our lives as a whole.
We discover pieces of things that can’t be conveyed simply through words, pictures, or the consumption of some form of media.
Taking action uncovers valuable lessons. Lessons which go beyond the activity we are currently undertaking and cross into all other areas of our lives.
Action transforms our being
Additionally, actions work things into our physical being beyond the level of a simple memory in our brain.
For example, when you practice riding a bike, or practice some physical action like kicking a soccer ball, you create pathways in your brain and get your whole body and nervous system coordinating.
Then, at some point, you can act without needing to exert as much mental effort — you’ve likely heard the term muscle memory before, which is partly what I’m referring to.
You engrain it into yourself, and what you actively learn sticks with you far into the future. (Think about how once you’ve learned to ride a bike, you don’t really forget, even if go years without riding one.)
These things reflect the impact action has on the multiple levels at which we learn, adapt, and change.
Beyond the physical into mindfulness
Beyond physical activities and exercise, as shared before, the act of meditation has profound effects on the structure of the brain, and the body as a whole. While many forms of meditation don’t involve any physical activity, the inner process forms an action with profound effects.
When you meditate for mindfulness, among other things, you are taking action by practicing the skills needed to be mindfully aware.
Through your practice, you gain a better ability to be more present and mindful in your every day life outside your dedicated meditation time.
Among other things, meditation practice is a form of training taking your knowledge and turning it into a part of your whole being. Concepts around the importance of being in the moment, accepting change, letting go of thoughts, emotions, etc change from simple knowledge into something that changes your life.
The actions of love and hatred
As another example, the impacts of action are also found in something like deep love and compassion.
By showing love and compassion through action, you demonstrate it on a level far more tangible and convincing to another than mere words can, and you feel the love and compassion deeper within yourself as well.
In the process, your act of compassion and love helps deepen the love within you. Each act is, in a way, a form of practice which helps you get in touch with the natural love within you, and grow your ability to uncover and share it.
(As an added benefit, studies show those who practice kindness and love find their life and own sense of self filled with greater love and compassion.)
In the same sense, those who practice — often unintentionally — anger, hatred, and such ultimately cultivate a greater level of those exact things in themselves, and in their environment.
As a result of their action, they feel those emotions on a deeper level, harm their physical being, and do vast amounts of damage to themselves and others.
(With some room for specific situations, studies have shown these negative impacts come even from things like formerly popular psychological practices where patients deal with anger by growing angrier and yelling louder and louder.)
That is one reason it is so crucial to actively work towards cultivating greater compassion, love, and positive emotions, including on the level of your inner self-talk.
Berating yourself or others in your head is a practice and action which grows upon itself if left unchecked. You inadvertently create patterns of negative thinking which ultimately lead to negative consequences, thus spurring more negative thinking.
In other words, be kind to yourself. That will allow you to be kinder to others — as well as yourself — and open the door for others to be kinder to you.
Remembering the obvious
In many ways, a lot of this likely sounds obvious when reading or hearing it.
It might be easy to think something along the lines of: “Of course, it’s called learning. It’s obvious doing something makes it easier to learn and retain.”
While apparent on some level, it’s also easy to forget or put off this component when it comes time to make changes or do something.
Our lives are often hectic, chaotic, overwhelming, and we frequently live in an automated, unchecked fashion letting previously engrained reactions control us.
That is why it’s important to occasionally reflect on the concept, as obvious as it may or may not be.
Briefly touching on something else
Overall, this concept of action touches on something else which will be explored in greater depth here on BigSkyRise, and that is the power of habits, and how practice makes permanent.
You’ve likely heard the phrase practice makes perfect more frequently, yet practice makes permanent is a slightly more accurate representation of reality.
Understanding the nature of habits and how practice makes permanent carries important lessons and power. So, while it’s related to the topic of action, it is worth its own dedicated consideration. (I’m mentioning it in this post primarily just to plant a seed.)
Action extras from around the web
The impact of action is fascinating in many ways, and considering it in relation to broader things can provide useful insights.
With that in mind, here are some posts from around the web worth looking at.
From Talk of the Nation, Science Friday this fascinating talk with Sharon Begley touches on some of the amazing features and capabilities of the brain, including how we can overcome and do things formerly thought to be impossible.
Update: It looks like the embed code for this stopped functioning for the moment. I’m leaving it here in case it works again though. In the meantime, visit http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7131130 to have a listen or read the transcript.
This quick, scannable post by Tim Brown shares information that is both fun to know and also useful for opening your mind to change and possibility through understanding.
While this article is in PDF, it covers some interesting points on how note taking is beneficial for learning. (While in the seeking and consumption phase of a process, note taking is essentially an added action element beneficial for learning concepts)
Action takes knowledge and moves it into part of your being. It alters your brain, your body, and ultimately your environment and your life.
Key mindset shift:
- Take action. (Really)
Realization to consider:
- Action is quite powerful, and in many ways, we’re really just discovering the enormous and countless ways it impacts our whole selves.
Actions to take:
- Explore ways in which action has impacted your life to this point.
Fellow Journeyer @ BigSkyRise
Regarding action-taking vs simply reading, consuming, and studying…
Yes, studying is also a form of action, among other things, it’s an action of seeking out an answer to a problem.
The real issue is we tend not to move beyond that first action of seeking and studying into an action of applying, and it’s in the action of application where real change starts to take place.
There are people who never take the action to seek out answers, and for them I’d emphasize the importance of seeking and studying information they can later apply.
For anyone reading this though, it’s likely you already take that initial step, and may have tendencies — in the same way I have — to keep seeking more knowledge at the expense of not applying the knowledge you already acquired.
It’s for that reason that I’m emphasizing the importance of going beyond the initial step of seeking, reading, studying, and consuming.
Since you’re likely already taking the first action of finding answers, this is friendly reminder to take the next step and to practice applying them.
Take action by sharing this message with others so that they can start taking action themselves.