Why “Done” is better than “Perfect”
Of the many universal laws and principles that affect us all in life, the one that intrigues me the most this time of year is The Law of Diminishing Intent. This natural law suggests that if I get exposed to an idea I feel would positively impact my life, I must take action immediately otherwise the likelihood that I will ever implement fades quickly.
After All is Said and Done, More is Often Said than Done.
In life, the pendulum often swings between ambition and contentment. Ultimately we want to savor what we have while continually striving to achieve our full potential. Many of us set goals in late December or early January as we strive to achieve new levels of personal and professional success in the coming year. And while our ambition and self-motivation may be strong, the velocity of life can be so intense that distractions and noise compete for our attention and conspire against our initiative. This pushes our goals off to the side and eventually right out our minds.
The bottom line is this, change is hard.
Aristotle provided a maxim that is very helpful: “Quality is a habit not an act. We are what we repeatedly do.” We are products of our habits and rituals. But creating a new habit can be very difficult because traction and meaningful results take time to manifest. Our daily routines get hardwired into our mindset and whenever we deviate we often subconsciously revert back to our original ways of doing things.
Not to oversimplify things, but an important step is to develop an approach where you take action and build the bridge as you cross it. If you know you have to start doing something that’s in your bests interests or, for that matter, stop doing something that is not in your best interests – creating a new habit or breaking a bad one – take action and let the momentum of your new habit compound over time.
If, for example, you know that you should be doing an ongoing call rotation or send out birthday cards to your best clients, but you never get around to it, start with a small number of say 10 or 20 clients. Calling 100 clients every 60 days can seem ominous, but calling 20 seems pretty easy. Once you get into a rhythm of consistency you can simply increase the numbers as you go. Follow the process and as the results become obvious, you will be motivated to not only expand the process but to also continue with it.
Minor Adjustments Can Lead to Major Improvements
Which brings me to an important observation. The Law of Cause and Effect suggests that our ongoing activities determine our productivity. In other words, we have to look at the actions we need to take on a regular basis that contribute to our overall effectiveness. Now apply that along with The Pareto Principle. If 80% of our productivity stems from 20% of our activities – meaning we make 80% of our income in about an hour a day – we have to identify, master and continuously deploy the activities that matter the most. These habits and rituals make up our code-of-conduct that earn the trust of our clients, lead to predictable results, and impact our branding in terms of how we are perceived by everyone we interact with. Talk really is cheap. Actions really do speak louder than words. The key is in constantly refining those actions so that we aren’t mistaking movement for achievement.
What’s the Worst That Can Happen?
But there is another reason why we don’t take action and develop a new habit before our intent diminishes: fear. As easy as it is to change, it’s always easier not to if there is uncertainty or risk. I talk to advisors about this all the time and I often share my personal view on how I try to overcome the core issues that lead to procrastination. I continually remind myself that life is short and I don’t want to be defined by my fears of failure. I’m also driven by the fact that my sense of purpose and fulfillment in life stems for the fact that the things that cause me anxiety or stress are never as big as they appear. Furthermore, ultimately I am one of seven billion people on earth. I’m just a small speck in the grand scheme of things. Don’t get me wrong, I have a strong self-esteem but it does help to keep things in proportion. I read recently that a NASA telescope that can see further and deeper into space has determined that there are at least 17 billion planets about the size of planet earth in the universe. That gives me perspective not to major in minor things and motivates me to take action and live a little. Sure I want to be rational and prepared using sound judgment but I refuse to let the fear of failure shackle me. Regret is always a possibility but I want to approach life looking forward at “what could be” rather than looking back at “what could have been”. Regret is always a possibility but I want to approach life looking forward at “what could be” rather than looking back at “what could have been”.
If you are a fan of reading biographies of high achievers you know that the people who are the most gratified as they reflect back on life are those who took action, overcame adversity and lived life to the fullest. I’ll never trivialize the importance of knowledge but it’s the reputation of action that creates the most interesting legacies. What we know will never matter more than our results. Knowledge isn’t power. Knowledge invested in action is power. And along the way you become an inspiration for others that leaves an indelible mark on the world. So let’s all be brave, be relentless, and be patient for results to appear as we take action through the year. As legendary philosopher Jim Rohn often said, “Do it for what it makes of you, not just for what it gets you. It’s not what you get in life that makes you valuable, it’s who you become that really matters the most.”
Contributed by Duncan MacPherson