Taking Action: #20 of 28 Big Ideas from the World of Coaching


This article is twenty-first in a multi-part series that adapts and excerpts my entire book, The Coach Within: 28 Big Ideas for Engaging the Power of Your Own Wisdom, Creativity, and Choices* (Everything Goes Media, 2017).

20. Taking Action

I once wanted to be a writer. Tell stories. Document my thoughts. It came from being a voracious reader, from books being complete worlds that drew me in, one after another, expanding reality for me with every turned page.

Then I discovered action. Building a business, taking responsibility for it, experimenting at every step, creating as I went, succeeding…and failing. At some point I knew that, for me, living in the world and taking action within it far outweighed writing or reading about it. It was its own form of expression, and my actions strung together and webbing in every direction were my personal expression.

Radio show host, career and relationship expert, and criminal lawyer Mel Robbins in her TEDx talk “How to stop screwing yourself over” makes a hilarious and brilliant case that these days it’s simple to get whatever you want. Very simple. Just not easy. What’s critical to getting everything is taking action on one’s impulses — “forcing” oneself and not “waiting to feel like it” — because, according to brain scientists, in five seconds any inspirational energy will be gone.

So, starting with having a bias towards action, here’s a Mini-Manifesto of Action I’ve cobbled together from some of my favorite quotes on the subject.

“Have a bias toward action — let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.” — Indira Gandhi


Just do something. Remember (dating myself) Richard Dreyfuss’s “baby steps” therapy for Bill Murray in the movie What About Bob? Take a step toward what you want to happen, make so, create — no matter how small — and you’ve started.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” — Mark Twain

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” — Pablo Picasso


But, action is more than busy-ness.

“Never mistake motion for action.” — Ernest Hemingway (and, slow down for a mojito once in a while.)


Turn your knowledge into action.

“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” — Herbert Spencer


In any situation, accept things as they are or act:

“To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” — Eckhart Tolle


Action moves us towards what we want. Commit and take responsibility for making things happen.

“How do we keep our inner fire alive? Two things, at minimum, are needed: an ability to appreciate the positives in our life — and a commitment to action. Every day, it’s important to ask and answer these questions: ‘What’s good in my life?’ and ‘What needs to be done?’” — Nathaniel Branden

“Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen…yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.” — Bradley Whitford

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” — Confucius


Action is a great antidote to fear. Don’t know what to do? Create your way out.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” — Dale Carnegie

“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.” — W. Clement Stone


Your actions reveal and define you; they are your personal self-expression.

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Action expresses priorities.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.” — Bruce Lee

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.” — Martha Graham


If you’re having trouble reconciling taking action with being not doing (big idea 14), re-read balance (big idea 11), and it will make a lot more sense.

Your Coaching To-Do’s

⎕ Make today a day of action. Open up your journal and take a look at the idealizing you did for different areas of your life (big idea 16) or the intentions you set (big idea 19). Take an action for as many as you can today. For those you can’t, schedule your next action as soon as possible. Once you complete each action, slow down (big idea 13) to acknowledge the success and congratulate yourself on moving towards your goal (admitting the arrival, big idea 8). Notice what comes up. Are you already inspired to take the next step? Do you need time to think about what you’ll do next? What are your feelings as you get closer to your ideal — excitement, resistance, a mix?



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