Books - May 11, 2020

The Do Something Principle

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I’m back with my unofficial book club on BTD today. OK, I don’t actually have a book club, but y’all know I love to read and I’m pretty much always reading something and sharing tidbits on Insta Stories. Y’all seemed to like when I shared what lessons I learned from Tim Ferriss’ book in January, so I wanted to do it again this month. But with a different book slash author.

I actually first read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** last year (hate the title, love the book), but I’ve been coming back to it often. It’s one of those books that you can pick up and read from at any point and take something from it. It’s a book I’ll keep referring back to, I’m sure. I love those books, don’t y’all? The books that keep on giving, ha!

The author, Mark Manson, talks candidly about a ton of good topics; mostly, he touches on basic principles of life and how the world works (or at least that’s what I took from it). He really challenges you to think about how you spend your time, energy and what you “choose” to care about. Very simple, but helpful stuff.

I could write like 7 blog posts on topics this book had me thinking about, but today I want to highlight one that Manson calls the “Do Something” Principle. To be honest, I don’t think he’s saying anything revolutionary but rather just reminding us of something we already know: that getting started is hard. Not only that, but he talks about how and why we get stuck and don’t end up starting at all. My whole life, one of my mottos has been something like: just take the next (or first) step. I tend to get overwhelmed with everything and so I’m always telling myself: just do the next thing, B. Don’t worry about that step (5 steps from now) just do what’s next and worry about step 5 later. Another thing I say to myself often is: something is better than nothing – working out for 10 minutes is better than doing nothing at all. This simple truth gets me through most days. Because oftentimes, the mere act of starting is just the motivation I need to keep going.

I want to talk about the “Do Something” principle because Manson basically put into words a concept that I live by every single day – and have for years.

What is the “Do Something” Principle?

Essentially, Mark talks about this principle as something he learned from a math teacher in high school. That teacher would tell students something like:

“If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t sit there and think about it; just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.”

Mark goes on to talk about how he’s used this “do something” idea, especially when he was forming his own business years ago. He argues that taking action (with or without motivation) will eventually lead to inspiration and then motivation and that it’s a healthy habit-forming lesson.

Why is the Do Something Principle important?

First off, I’ve found this so helpful because I get VERY overwhelmed. I wouldn’t call myself a procrastinator, but I have a habit of taking too much on and starting things I don’t always finish. Because I’m afraid of failing and get overwhelmed. Too many ideas, not enough action. But I LOVED this sentence from Mark’s book:

“If we follow the “do something” principle, failure feels unimportant. When the standard of success becomes merely acting – when any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as the reward rather than a prerequisite – we propel ourselves ahead. We feel free to fail, and that failure moves us forward.”

WHOA. Right?!

It’s so scary to actually start a project sometimes – whether that’s because the project is huge and daunting because we’re inexperienced because we’re scared of failing because we’re so busy – but I love shifting the mindset here. Mark encourages us to really take BABY STEPS, to take things moment by moment. If we’re looking at the task or project or thing as a whole, it’s bound to get pushed off for some reason or another. But if we simply start, that’s creating action. And that’s success! The success isn’t necessarily finishing or doing said task/thing (though that is a success), but the action, in general, is a success. Even if we fail or we mess up or we have to do that thing ten times. We’re still acting on it.

As someone who often puts things of for XYZ, this has been mind-blowing for me, and I’m so grateful for the lesson. I’ve started taking action and thinking of that as my success, instead of feeling like a failure for either not starting or not doing it “right.” It’s honestly been very freeing, too. When the metric of success is shifted, it’s suddenly easier to succeed – and failure doesn’t feel as important.

I can’t even explain how many times I’ve started on things now because of this. And how good/relieving/freeing it feels. My mind instantly feels more clear and it even boosts my confidence. It’s like taking all those little things in your head that have been swirling – and freaking starting on them. But in the smallest way. Even when I really, really don’t want to.

How can you use the “Do Something” Principle in your life?

Gosh, I’ve found a million ways to use this personally, and I wanted to share a few of those with y’all. I added in some ideas that aren’t necessarily personal to me, but might be for you guys, too.

  • If you’re overwhelmed with your weekly to-do list, start making daily ones instead. Or even just a “morning task list.” What’s the one more important thing to do today? Just do that first.
  • If you want to start a new job or a new field, spend one hour updating your resume. Or one hour journaling about a new career.
  • If you want to redecorate your house, start a Pinterest board of inspiration. Or donate one piece you don’t love.
  • If you want to lose 10 lbs, eat a salad for lunch, focus on one meal at a time – not what you need to eat for the rest of the month to stay on target.
  • If you have a ton of errands, run one. See how you feel after and where you want to go next (whether home or to another store).
  • If you have 10 blog posts to write, write 200 words today.
  • If you want to find a boyfriend or new friends in a city, spend one hour at a coffee shop alone. Or text one person.
  • If you have a lot of work in one day, shut down your emails, put your calendar away, and focus on one task at a time.
  • If you need to organize your house, clean out one drawer. Or set a timer for 15 minutes and do it for that long.
  • If you’re sad and can’t get over it, make a list of things that usually make you happy. Then maybe do one.
  • If you want to start working out, commit to 10 minutes of exercise. Just that day. Then see if you want to keep going.
  • If you want to clean out your closet, find three things to give away. See if you want to find more.
  • If you want to start a blog, pick a font for your header.

Hopefully you get the point – it’s all about STARTING.

No matter what you start on or where it falls in order of “importance,” just start. Do something, take action. I think you’ll find that you usually want to keep going – or at least you’ll find a little motivation/inspiration to do more the next day. And if not, that’s OK! You did something. You succeeded.

I’m SO fascinated by this simple yet effective mindset, and I’d love to know how y’all could use it in your life. What is something you’re really wanting to start but have been pushing off? How can you take action today? What one small thing can you start with?

Be sure to let me know if y’all have tried this “do something” principle yourself! Anyone else read and love this book?!