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Action Drives Motivation

First action drives motivation

“I’ll feel like it tomorrow.” “I don’t feel like it.” "I'm waiting for inspiration". Relate to any of these sayings? I've said or thought similar phrases. I've learned that motivation comes from taking action and not the other way around! Action leads to motivation.


You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling than feeling yourself into action.” —Jerome Bruner, Harvard psychologist


Take an action, any action. This sounds so simple in theory but can be much harder in practice. Our brains can get in the way by overthinking an action. Or we can be overwhelmed or overstressed or overbooked. One action, though, doesn't have to take long. And in taking an action you prime your brain to realize that you are taking action! You just may want to keep on taking action. By taking action, you start making shifts in your productivity.

April Perry is a decluttering specialist. She was working with a client who had piles and piles of books that she wanted to organize. She knew that she needed to order bookshelves, but kept putting it off. Perry asked, “If we meet right now, can you order the bookshelves?” The client mentioned that she needed to measure the space. Perry asked her, “Can you get a tape measure and do that?” The client said, “ I don’t have one,” and laughed and bought a tape measure.

Perry helped her client figure out what the first step should be. It wasn't looking at Ikea or browsing through various websites with a lot of bookshelf options. It was finding a tape measure.

Here's something to be thoughtful of: be careful of research. Sometimes it can be a great first step. But many times it can be a sticking point or place where you stay in the name of taking action. I like to think of this as "activity" vs. "action". Perry's client may have been stuck in researching the perfect bookshelf.

Here are some tools for taking the first action:

1: Determine your simplest first action

April Perry's client needed to find a measuring tape. To write this blog post, I opened up my editor and started copying and pasting from an old presentation I did. I worried about editing and modifying the content later. Just taking my first action provided the impetus I needed to keep going!

By creating a simple first action, your mind perceives this as doable. This helps your motivation because you are taking action. If you need to, write down your first action on a sticky note and place it where you can see it: on your laptop, your mirror, your refrigerator.

2: Enlist the music playlist

If I am having trouble taking action, I love to put on my favorite, high-energy music. Some of my own personal favorites include Confident by Demi Lovato, Ceiling Can't Hold Us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas, New York, New York by Frank Sinatra, Elevation by U2; Walkin’ on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. It provides the spark I sometimes need! Most of my motivation challenges happen with tasks that I don’t want to do but that I actually need to do. I have found that music is a powerful motivator and can help replenish my energy. It helps pump me up or gives me something enjoyable to look forward to. Think of your own music loves.

Do you find yourself tapping your foot, playing the air drums, or bouncing your head when a favorite song comes on? We move to the rhythm of the music. Fast-paced music can help us move faster, slow-paced music can relax us, classical music can help us focus.

3: Do something for just 2 minutes

On days when I am really feeling stuck, I tell myself "I can do anything for 2 minutes."

Consider my habit of exercise: I have established the habit of exercising for 2 minutes a day. That's it. The habit is so small and so achievable. Here's what I've noticed:

  • On days when I have absolutely no interest in exercising, I tell myself that I can do anything for 2 minutes. And I do it. I usually ride my exercise bike and read for 2 minutes.

  • Most days, I actually look forward to exercising and do it while waiting for my coffee to brew.

  • Some days, I feel so excited about how my body feels when I am moving, that I will take a couple of 5-minute breaks and walk outside.

  • Periodically, I will race against the clock and see how far I can bike in 2 minutes.

I am such a believer in the power of the 2-Minute Tool, that I have created this free downloadable guide with more ways to use it as well as areas of your life to use it. Click here to get it.

Unless you are a medical professional, most first actions aren't life-or-death, thankfully. These first actions provide momentum to keep going.


Resources mentioned in this post

Free downloadable guide (2-minute tool):


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