Episode 50: Motion vs. Action
Welcome to Live Free Creative, the podcast that provides inspiration and ideas for living a creative, adventurous, and intentional lifestyle. I’m your host Miranda Anderson and I hope that each time you listen you feel a little bit more free to live your life exactly the way you want to live it.
Hello friends. Welcome back to the show. I’m Miranda Anderson and this is Live Free Creative, Episode 50: Action v. Motion. I’m really excited about today’s episode (like I am every week, because this is my favorite thing). The kids have gone to bed. I am back in my office, which is one of the places I like to record in the evenings because all of the people who are here during the day opening and closing doors and bustling about doing their jobs are not here…and the occasional rock band that rents a space, a couple of doors down for their evening rehearsals is also not here.
I came in from the parking lot through the back door and opened the door cautiously, like fingers crossed, that there was not a rock band practicing because that makes it really hard to record a podcast episode. And behold they were not here so it’s just me and you and the Trader Joe’s grapefruit scented candle that I just lit and my notes and I’m ready to dive in.
Right before I started recording this episode, I looked at my blog podcast show notes, so if you want to see the full transcripts and the links and pictures and things that I talk about from the show, they are at www.livefreecreative.co/podcast, and we update those every single week so you have the full show transcripts at the same time that the show goes live.
But I had to go back and scroll through the last several weeks of episodes because I had the thought crossed my mind. Have I already recorded about this topic? Motion v. Action or Action v. Motion? Because I’ve been thinking about it so much and I’ve been sharing about it with friends and Dave and I have had a couple conversations about it and I think I mentioned the concept in one other episode. I needed to be sure that I hadn’t actually recorded an episode on that subject so that I wouldn’t be repeating myself and so luckily I have not and that means that this is a go.
I’m really excited about it because I think that this concept is a really helpful perspective and allows me already just in the last month or two since I learned more about it. It has helped me make better decisions about how I am using my time, energy and resources and that is what intentional living is all about.
This podcast is about creative, adventurous, and intentional living and I think that this topic encompasses all of those things to propel us toward our dreams, to better enable us to make the decisions that will lead us to the people and the places and goals that we want to have in our lives. This principle is all about reclaiming that power of what actually moves the needle on where you want to go and so I’m excited to dive into it.
First I want to share a quick segment. This one is called Life Lately.
Segment: Life Lately
As this show goes live, my family and I will be hopping on an airplane and flying back across the country to the beaches of California to spend a week with my husband’s family. It’s like a little end of summer family reunion on the West Coast and we are really excited about it.
We of course spent all of July road tripping, so we drove from Virginia to Texas, from Texas to Utah. We spent an extra week in Utah and then we drove home from Utah to Richmond. We’ve spent the last two weeks at home getting settled back in our house. We’ve made some real progress toward finishing our renovation and now we are headed back by airplane and my kids were so excited. This is so funny that driving is so normal to our family. They were really excited that we are going to be going on the airplane and fly.
We travel quite a bit, but this was like extra exciting because we just spent so much time in the car for our big long summer road trip. It’s gonna feel like a breeze to hop on an airplane and we have a direct flight to San Diego and we’re going to pick up a car, drive down (up?) to Newport beach and just nestle in with family. Dave comes from a big family, as do I, so we are going to have all of the siblings, so five other families, all of his siblings are married and all of them have children, at least one and in most cases more. And so it’s going to be like a big pile of cousins on the beach.
There’s something just kind of magical about California, the weather and the palm trees and the super laid-back attitude and the acai bowls, and the seaside donuts, and I grew up going to California fairly frequently. We lived so close. It was kind of the escape for our family and my, my grandparents lived in northern California so we were there at least once a year, sometimes more, so it’s really fun to be headed back to California.
A Little Secret
And if you promise not to tell my kids, I will let you in on a little secret. We are going to surprise them and spend our last day at Disney. Oh my gosh. I’m so excited. They have never been and if you can believe it, my husband has also never been to Disneyland and we’ve tried to figure out a couple different times how to make it work. Our kids are the perfect ages right now. No strollers, no naps, no diapers. They’re all old enough to walk. They’re mostly old enough to go on rides yet they’re young enough to love the characters and to love all of the different franchises.
My boys love Star Wars. My daughter is obsessed with the Princesses and it just is the exact right time. We had briefly considered doing Orlando Disney World, which is much closer to us here in Richmond, but it felt maybe like a lot like a bigger park I think and a lot more different aspects of it there. And of course Harry Potter World is there, which sounded really tempting and it kind of felt like a place that you want to go and do it all. And I had a friend say, if you go to Disney World, make sure you do a full week. And I was like, “Ah, I don’t think I can do that.”
So when this trip to California came up that we were going to be spending a few days on the beach and we were going to have a car and we were going to be so close to Anaheim, Dave and I looked at each other and I told him, “I think this is time, honey.”
And he now actually wears it kind of as a little badge of honor. Like, well, I’ve never been to Disneyland. He thinks it’s kinda cool. But I think that it is the just right time and I already have mentally prepared for it being expensive. It’s going to be hot. There’s going to be a lot of lines. It’s still the summertime. It’s going to be busy and it’s going to be absolutely magical. I have already decided that it is going to be one of our favorite theme park experiences ever and one of the ways that I know that I can ensure that for us is that my expectation is that we are going to be present exactly where we are at every single point during the day. Whether we’re in a line, whether we’re eating a churro, whether we’re riding a ride, whether we’re walking or taking a break.
Maybe we’re going to need to sit down on a bench for a while and just regroup. Maybe we’re going to need to spend $11 on a lemonade and all of that is going to be just fine. We’re going to just be present in the moment that we’re in and not expect to see everything and not expect to ride everything and not expect to do everything and not expect every single picture to be really cute and it is going to be absolutely magical.
We were really lucky and noticed, actually my sister told me that there is an incredible deal right now for Disneyland and I don’t know if any of you know about this, but during the month of August, the whole month if you go to the box office in person with a season pass holder, you can have a park hopper pass, which is for California Adventure and Disneyland for just $99 normally a Park Hopper is $199 and a one day Disneyland itself pass is $150 and so this summer deal, and I think people were telling me that Disney doesn’t do deals very often and I am sharing this simply because I heard about it and we have a good friend who I’m so thrilled is willing to come spend the day with us at Disneyland with her kids.
So we get to experience it with an insider and we also get to take advantage of this annual pass holder “bring a friend” deal. If you are interested in going to Disneyland and you think this is a way you could do it a little bit cheaper and it makes it a little bit more accessible for you during the month of August, this is what’s happening and I don’t, this is not sponsored or affiliated, I don’t even have a link to share with you except for if you go to the show notes, I guess I will link the article that tells about the deal itself, but it is only in person and you have to attend with a passholder. The person doesn’t actually have to come into the park with you, but they do have to buy the ticket with you and so that’s our plan. I was planning on going and just paying full price for a normal day ticket to Disneyland and so we save a little bit of money and I’m going to be able to buy that $11 lemonade with the savings that I have from me the day you guys. It’s so fun. I’m so excited.
Don’t Send Tips
Please don’t send me your Disneyland tips. I’m sure you all have a million of them and there’s a billion articles online and so many things that it’s just overwhelming and so we’re just going to go and enjoy and it’s okay if we don’t do it exactly the way that you do. After you know everything, we’re going to have a great time. I’ll definitely be sharing as we experience it on Instagram stories. So make sure that you follow along there. I’m @livefreemiranda on Instagram.
And guys, that’s life lately.
Main Topic: Motion v. Action
So now let’s talk about this idea of motion versus action.
This blew my mind when I was reading Atomic Habits by James Clear over the last couple months. I read it and then I read it again and then I’ve re-read pieces of it. And then I have looked up other articles that James Clear has written. He’s been writing online for years and so there’s just like a black hole of good information online so you can look this up. And I actually read the book and then I also have a couple articles that I have read that he also wrote on this same topic. And so most of these ideas and especially the language surrounding it definitely comes directly from James Clear and Atomic Habits, the idea of motion versus action.
Now at face value, these things look the same. And even as I started reading in the chapter about motion and action, I thought, okay, well motion is like movement forward and action is movement and you know you’re doing the things you want to do. And then he clarifies. And this is, it’s like the nuance and the definition that make this so interesting.
Motion is being engaged in an activity that will never get you to the desired result. It will help prepare you or possibly make you feel like you’re achieving something. You’re in motion, but you are not headed toward the desired result. Motion by itself will never get you to your goal.
Action, on the other hand, are the types of activities that lead you toward the goal. You cannot reach the goal without taking these steps. That is action.
Examples of Motion v. Action
So it’s a little bit nuanced, but let me share a couple of examples. As I was getting ready for this podcast, there are a few things that I did. I re-read a section of his book. I looked up some articles online. I sat down and took some notes in my planner and I set up my equipment and those things were all motion. Action is when I hit record and I started actually speaking.
My goal is to have a recorded podcast ready to go live on Thursday morning at 6:00 am. I could research and plan and take notes all day long for a hundred days and not be any closer to that goal. I would feel very prepared. I would feel like I had done a whole lot toward my goal, but not until I sit down and turn on the microphone and start recording am I actually taking action in the direction of the goal itself.
I hope that that is helpful. I’m going to give you a couple more examples. I think that generally we are guilty of a lot of motion in our lives and maybe not as much action as we would like. And for me, distinguishing the difference has been crucial in my ability to make better decisions about how I spend my time because I can get caught in motion, I can get caught in spinning my wheels thinking and planning and preparing and hoping and dreaming and talking about the thing, but not ever actually doing the thing.
All of that motion makes you feel like you’re accomplishing. It makes you feel like you’re being productive, but it’s false productivity.
Example: Eating Healthy
So here’s another example from the book. If you want to eat healthy, some of the motions surrounding that idea are buying a healthy cookbook, going shopping and buying healthy foods, trolling Pinterest for a bunch of healthy recipes, writing a weekly meal plan that includes lots of vegetables. Those things make you feel like you are in motion, you are circling around this goal. But when you actually put healthy food into your mouth at your meal times, that is when you have taken action.
Raise your hand if you have ever gone grocery shopping with your healthy list of all the healthy meals that you’re going to make for the week and you buy all of those carrots and Broccoli and spinach and the whole wheat bread and the chicken breast and the eggplant. You get all of the things that you need and then you’re so hungry that you stopped by Chick-Fil-A on the way home and get a spicy chicken deluxe and a large Diet Dr Pepper and some extra Polynesian sauce for dipping. Anyone? I think that we all do this.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with making a meal plan and eating out because I think that we do that almost every single week that I buy groceries because by the time you finish at the grocery store, you’re starving, but that’s a lot of motion surrounding the idea of the thing you want to do. The action is actually eating healthy meals and it’s the same thing for healthy lifestyle regarding your exercise.
You can go into the gym and check it out. You can put on your exercise clothes every single day. You can even lace up your running shoes real tight. You can make an appointment with a personal trainer. You can do a lot of things that feel like exercising but are not actually exercising. You have not exercised until you have started to run or stood on your Yoga Mat and started to practice or gotten beneath the weights and started to squat. That is the action toward exercising regularly and having an active healthy lifestyle.
Walking in Circles or Stepping Toward the Center?
Are some of these things resonating with you? Can you see the difference and how powerful it is to recognize the difference? Because motion is still motion. I imagine now I think about these things as motion where I’m sort of taking steps in a circle. I’m walking in a circle and I’m kind of circling around and around my goal, my goals in the middle and I’m circling around it. I’m thinking about it, I’m planning for it, I’m preparing for it. I’m making sure that I am all the way ready, that I’ve covered all of my bases.
When I step toward the center in a straight line, headed at my goal directly and I take the steps required to actually get there to the middle instead of circling around. That is when I am taking action.
Progress without Failure
James Clear says that the reason that we perform a lot of motion, the reason we like to be in motion is that it feels like progress without the risk of failure. When you’re planning and preparing and brainstorming and writing your ideas down on a big whiteboard, there is no risk for failure. You haven’t actually put yourself out in a place of vulnerability yet. You’re very safe thinking about the goal. You’re very safe planning for the goal, but there’s no discomfort in that and that’s why we like to stay there. It’s a form of procrastination, just waiting until things are just perfect.
And if we do a little bit more research, it’s going to be a little better. And if we plan a little more it’s going to be a little better and we let the perfect be the enemy of the good by staying in motion, without taking action.
Attacking Our Punch List
In our house right now there are lots of little projects to finish and a lot of them don’t require a lot of energy or creativity. They just need to be done. And that takes time and it takes some focus and a lot of times it takes getting messy and so rather than doing these things, I like to think about them and I like to write lists. So I’ve written like this very long punch list of all of the things we need to do for our house. And my idea is that, well every week we’re going to choose a thing or two and we’re going to get it done.
Thinking about it is motion writing. The list is motion moving boxes around a little bit to kind of get ready to have space to paint. The door. That’s all motion. I know that the only way that door between my closets and my bedroom is going to get painted is if I sit down with a paintbrush and a can of paint and I paint it.
Thinking about it, planning it, writing the list, putting it in my schedule. Those things are great, but they mean absolutely nothing in my progress toward that goal if I never take action. And so the planning can be wonderful and I think for a lot of things that you might want to do, it is good to have a plan. It is good to feel like you’re not, you know, blindly throwing darts at the wall. It’s nice to have a little bit of an idea of what’s coming, but you can’t do that forever.
At some point, if you want to get to a goal, you have to start taking steps that lead to it rather than taking steps that circle around it.
At some point, if you want to get to a goal, even if that goal is painting a door, you have to start taking action toward it. You have to take the steps that lead to it rather than taking the steps that circle around it. So I want to ask you right now to think of some of the goals that you have right now in your life.
How Does This Apply To Your Goals?
What are some of the things that you’d like to do? It could be something like start a business, write an article, change careers. Maybe it’s have a healthier lifestyle. Maybe it’s read more books on your list. Maybe it’s decorate a room, whatever it is, bigger, small. I want you to think right now of some of the motion steps. I want to just get clear about this and I think like doing a personal example in your head will be helpful.
So think about what are some of the motion steps surrounding your goal? What are some of the ways you’ve been thinking about it? If it’s a goal that you were able to easily think of, it’s probably something that you have in your head and maybe you’ve been circling around it for a while. Maybe you’ve been doing some of those motion things that are planning and preparation and that are procrastination of the actual thing that you need to do in order to move forward towards the goal. Phone calls and writing lists and research and more research and talking to other people about it and all of those things.
Now this part is really important. I need you to think about what are the actual action steps and if you’re in a place that you can write some down right now I want you to do that.
The writing down of your action steps is still motion, but at least it allows you to get clear about what motion in this particular goal is going to look like. It’s all a little bit abstract, the idea of motion and action and so I want you to be able to think for yourself what is action regarding that goal, what is a thing that is a step towards the actual achievement and not just circling around it.
My Sewing Goal
I’m going to give you a couple of a different examples from my own life just so that might be helpful. I like to sew a lot and I have a goal of sowing a matching outfit with my daughter around once a month. It has been a little tricky with traveling this summer and I’m not beating myself up for not making it happen during the month that I was traveling all over the country.
However, I’m excited to get back to it and my next plan is to make matching beating suits. I have sown swimsuits before. This isn’t crazy. I’m excited about it more than anything and so what I’ve done so far is all motion. I’ve looked up different fabrics that I like. I’ve looked at different patterns that I might like. I’ve started thinking about the lines and the design and all of the things that I’ve done have been motion. They’ve been preparation and planning.
The first action step for this goal is going to be to actually order the fabric, which I haven’t done yet. I have to decide and order the fabric and pay money for the fabric. The fabric is going to show up at my house and the next action step is going to be to cut out the pattern. When I sit down in my sewing room with the pattern and the fabric and I cut out the pattern that is action.
That is something that leads me to the finished product and the next action step after that is to pin the pieces together and start following the instructions to actually construct the bathing suits. And then my next action step after that is to try them on and make sure they fit. And then for one of the finishing steps of my goal that I love to share these on my blog and on Instagram is to take pictures to put on the bathing suits and go to the lake or the pool or wherever we decide to do them with Dave, who is our stand in Instagram, husband, photographer and take some pictures in our bathing suits so I can share them and then that goal will have been achieved and then we can wear them and enjoy them for the rest of the summer and for years to come.
All of the thinking and planning and the nights that I’ve spent up researching swimsuit patterns and looking at different designs of fabric. Those things are helpful toward the overall goal, but really they don’t make that big of an impact. The impact happens when I order and I cut and I sew. That is the way that you make a swimsuit.
Writing My Book
Here’s another example, and I shared a lot about this. If you’re interested in the whole story of my writing a book, you can look a couple episodes back and I shared every bit of it in two separate episodes. One about the process of writing the book and the second about the process of publishing the book. But briefly here, I need to tell you that I spent most of 2018 in motion and I felt like I was writing the book because I had started it. I sat down and wrote some words. I wrote some pages and I thought, okay, I’m doing it. I’m writing the book and I spent 10 months not writing anything but thinking that I was writing it because I was thinking about it.
I was doing some research about writing. I read a couple books about writing a book and I was circling around it and then when I decided to really do it, the decision just went, “I’m going to stop thinking and I’m going to start writing.” And at some point, if you want to write a book or an article, at some point you have to stop thinking and you have to start writing because the only way that you write a book is by sitting down and writing words. That is the only way that it happens.
You can’t magically take it out of your head and just like poof it into existence. You actually have to sit and write every single word that is going to be in it and that feels hard and it feels a little daunting and it feels a little scary and so it’s much easier from a place of comfort to think about how fun it would be to write a book and to think about what the best method is for writing a book and to read articles about the best way to set up your space to be a successful author and to read blog posts about speed writing or writing activities or creative writing.
All of the things that you can do to circle around the goal of writing a book or writing an article when really the only action that you need to take to get started that leads you toward the actual goal in aligned straight to the center is to sit down and write, to sit down and write.
The beauty of taking action is that it puts us back in the driver’s seat of our goals.
We recognize that our actions make a difference, that our actions actually propel us toward where we want to be in big and small goals. Taking those steps toward the center toward achievement of that goal is all within our power.
What Are Your Goals?
So I guess another question is what is it that you actually want to do? Sometimes we get in motion because we don’t know exactly what we want to do and so we just get in motion about all the things and we kind of think about lots of different things and we brainstorm lots of different things and we plan lots of different things.
And I will tell you in my experience, the fastest way to decide what you want to do or to know what you want to do is to do something, take some action and get to the center of one circle. And along the way you’ll discover whether or not that something that you like a lot and then take action on something else. The more you actually do not think about, not brainstorm, not search on Pinterest, but the more you actually do, the more you know.
Pick A Date And Make It Public
As we’re wrapping up here today, it’s a little shorter episode and I hope that you are just absorbing some of this information and able to then turn around and apply it to real situations in your real life. Today, James Clear in one of his articles, shares some tips for taking action. You’ve done some motion, you’ve thought about it, you’ve brainstormed it, you’ve planned it. You have a system, you have a checklist, you’ve got it all figured out. The only thing left to do is do it.
He says it’s important to pick a date so you have a deadline. Pick a date and make it public. Whether you tell a friend, you text it like group texts to your family, whoever your accountability partner is, whether it’s a spouse, a child, your best friend, your church group, your PTA board, whoever it is that you tell these types of things. To choose a date and make it public.
And this might be weird, but friends, I use Instagram a lot as an accountability partner. I will say things in my Instagram stories as I’m thinking about, okay, this is what I want to do today. I’ll hop on stories and say, you guys, this is what I’m going to do today. I’m going to share about it and then I’ve committed myself and then I actually do it because I just decided I was going to do it and share about it.
So you don’t have to be that public and that’s not everyone’s personality either and that’s fine, but choose a date, make it public and then do it. That deadline is so important. And if any of you are procrastinators like I am–I am for sure a procrastinator, like totally spent my whole life thinking about things until the day before they’re due, and then I do it all in one night. I’m also quite quick and efficient and so I can do it all in one night and then it’s done.
But sometimes I think if I worked on things a little bit further ahead of time, then maybe it would have a couple iterations and be even better. I know the power of a deadline, so if you need a little push, create a deadline for yourself, not for the goal to be accomplished, but for you to take that first action step and then another goal for you to take that next action step, and this takes us back into another concept that James Clear talks about.
I’m going to link to the book Atomic Habits in the show notes. It’s a fantastic book, so you can hop over to www.livefreecreative.co/podcast and find the link for Atomic Habits and check it out because it really is so good.
Make The Action Steps Small And Immediate
Another thing that he talks about is making those action steps small and easy and short and immediate because then we’re more likely to do them. If your first step is write the first chapter of my novel, the next great American novel that feels a little daunting, but if your first action step is write 100 words or write an opening paragraph or write 10 possible chapter topic ideas or something like by a paint brush and paint or decide on fabric and pick it up from the store or dump everything out of my junk drawer and start sorting. You can think about the junk drawer. You can go to container store and buy lots of pretty little containers and organizational things and baskets and you can have all the wonderful Pinterest boards about organization in the world.
But not until you actually get your stuff out of the way, go through it, donate half of it, decide what you want to keep and then organize it and put it back in the drawer are you actually taking action.
As a final recap, motion will not by itself lead you to your results. Only action will do that.
The sooner you get clear in your head about what motion looks like and what action looks like, you will be able to more often be brave and take those steps of action that actually make an impact.
The motion is just walking in circles. The action moves you forward.
I would love to hear how this episode has impacted your thought process surrounding some of your own personal goals. Please share with me on Instagram. Come send me a direct message at @livefreemiranda and let me know what goal you thought of and how this episode has helped you determine what your next action step is and whether or not you’re feeling motivated to get out of motion and into action.
I would love to hear and maybe share some of those in a future episode as a followup to this episode. Now it’s time for me to ask you to move into action in my support. There are three specific ways that I’m going to ask you to do this.
- One is to check out my book more than enough available on Amazon. If you are international, please find it at shop.livefreecreative.co we send it anywhere in the world and we can’t wait to get it into your hands on Amazon. It’s available in kindle and audible as well as the hard copy versions. So whatever you’re looking for you will be able to find it.
- Action number one is to read that book and action number two is to leave it a review on Amazon. That means the world to me. Thank you so much for all of those wonderful reviews that we have so far. I’m excited for them to help other people outside of my circle of influence, find and enjoy my book.
- Lastly, and you could probably all repeat with me, the ways that you can support the podcast are (a) by leaving a review on iTunes. A written review means the world, (b) by taking a screenshot and sharing it on your social media so other people know what you’re listening to and what you’re enjoying, and (c) by just mentioning it to a friend or family member. If they don’t know yet how to use a podcast, you could grab their phone and actually download the podcast app and subscribe to Live Free Creative and let them know that a new episode is available every Thursday morning at 6:00 am, so they can tune in every single week to learn something new.
I can not believe that we have been together for 50 episodes. If you’re new to the show, make sure that you scroll down and check out some of the archives. We have covered a lot of ground together over this last almost full year, and I cannot wait to see where we go together in the future.
Thank you so much for being here. I will check in with you again next week.
Until then, have a wonderful week. I hope everything goes your way. See you later.