We are all busy. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep our moments are filled with things we think we have to do, things we are told we have to do and things we think have to be done. We could all, quite happily, continue to do all these things that always change but never diminish in number or go away in urgency, until the day we die.
And that’s just it. When the end is inevitable and predictable the journey itself has to have meaning. And meaning requires that it has value. Value requires purpose. None of this has to be of global importance but they do need to be present in order for choices to be made and decisions to be taken that will make sense.
This is what separates action from activity. Activity is something we do because we:
- Have developed habitual behavior
- React to an external stimulus
- Respond to our environment
- Do what others expect of us
- Do things on autopilot
Actions on the other hand are energy-intensive. We need to deliberate what we will do which means we work out specific tactics but before we even get to that stage we have thought about why we are going to do them, which means we have thought in terms of strategy.
An action will always have an effect. We need to weight that effect against our own plans, views and direction. We need to work out contingency plans should the action not deliver the outcome we expect and we need to have a back-up plan to make sure that failure doesn’t derail our plans or make us lose our focus.
This means that actions are caused by motivation. Motivation, in turn, requires self-awareness otherwise it is not sustainable. Self-awareness leads to a greater understanding of who we are. When we know who we are a little better we realize what we value and why it is important to us.
These are the building blocks which create our personality, attitude and mindset. They help us prioritize our actions so that we can advance towards our goal in life. This generates our sense of purpose. We tend to associate words such as “goals” and “purpose” with grand schemes and high ideals but they needn’t be like that. Goals and purpose can be ‘small’ in the sense that they can be highly personal. Their worth to us as guiding vectors on how we should behave is not devalued because of that.
On the contrary, the more personal the goal, the more intensely felt the sense of purpose, the more likely we are to behave consistently, aligning our internal world with our external behavior and making sure out actions lead us to our goals.
This is the countdown to the release of Intentional: How to Live, Love, Work and Play Meaningfully. You can find a few more details about it here.
Each day of the countdown I release one truth. So here’s the final one:
“Activity is not action.”