Action is required to reach your BIG goals and in every area of your Excelerated Life™. Not just any action will do, however. Wrong action or the wrong time can lead to misunderstandings, inconvenience, even disaster. To have the maximum effectiveness, choose the right action at the right time.
The Four Little Pigs
Once upon a time, there were four little pigs. They went out into the world to seek their fortune and each one decided she needed to build a house.
The first little pig chose to build her house from straw, which was in plentiful supply. She got to work and had her house nearly completed. Unfortunately, she neglected to check the weather forecast for that day and didn’t realize that she was in the path of a giant windstorm. The storm came through and completely blew her house away. She had taken the right action, but it was at the wrong time.
The second little pig wanted a house made of twigs. She had seen other houses like this and thought they looked very nice. Twigs were abundant and she started to work right away. But this little pig had no plans, no blueprints, and no clue as to the steps to build a house. She ended up with a two-car garage. It was nice enough, but (1) she didn’t own a car, and (2) she still had no house to live in. It was the right time, but she took the wrong action.
The third little pig had the idea to build a house from brick. And not just one house but an entire brick village. To her dismay, though, just as she got started, the local brick factory shut down due to poor management and she had no other source of material. She ended up with nothing – no brick house and certainly no brick village. It was obviously the wrong action at the wrong time.
The fourth little pig also planned to build a brick house but she only needed enough bricks for one house, which she had ordered and received several months in advance. She successfully completed her home, which had four bedrooms due to her foresight so all the little pigs had a safe place to live. And all because she took the right action at the right time.
Good thing, too, because the local big bad wolf . . . well, that’s another story.
Action Is Necessary
“Thinking counts as effort, but nothing comes into being through thought alone. Air must be moved, words spoken, written, or sung, action and work of any kind completed. The more air that’s moved, the more real a thing becomes.” ~ Holiday Mathis
If we never act, never move, nothing is created, nothing is completed. Nothing is started, even. Action and movement are necessary to build relationships, achieve BIG goals, earn a living, develop and hone new skills, learn, even recreate.
But not just any action. Some actions work OK, some work even better, and some can bring disaster. So, yes. Action is necessary but it must be the right action at the right time.
Let’s explore the different ways we can take action. According to John Maxwell’s “Law of Timing”, there are four possible outcomes to any action, depending on the timing. [Maxwell] Let’s examine each one.
Right Action, Wrong Time
You can take the right action, that is, something appropriate and in line with the results you want to achieve. But if the timing is wrong, your action leads to resistance. [Maxwell]
If a leader wants to make a significant change within her company, but then tries to change things too quickly, she may be met by strong resistance from employees.
If you want to change a habit that you have but try to do too much too quickly, you’ll face the same type of internal resistance.
Wrong Action, Right Time
Maybe the time is right, but you take the wrong action. The result is a mistake, but that result is not as bad as some of the other outcomes. [Maxwell] Usually, you can overcome the issue. Even if it’s a garage made of twigs instead of a house.
Suppose the quarterback makes a mistake during a play. The coach calls a timeout but that disrupts his players’ timing and eventually that costs them the game. Big mistake, but usually not the worst thing to happen.
Wrong Action, Wrong Time
In this option, you do the wrong thing and at the most inopportune time, (e.g., starting a village of brick houses during a nationwide brick shortage.)
This effort could lead to disaster. For example, a company develops a new product but introduces it when the market is already flooded with similar offerings. They’re going to take a hit, for sure. And depending on how big a hit, it may be something they can never recover from.
Right Action, Right Time
This is the sweet spot. You do the right thing and your timing is impeccable. You will most definitely have a favorable, even a great outcome.
A personal example? One of my goals is to write at least 15 minutes every day, and more most days. I’m doing that right now, as my first task of the day. When I finish, I’ll check off today on a spreadsheet I’ve set up to track my progress. Success!
Taking the Right Action . . .
So, how can you be sure you’re taking the right action and at the right time?
Well, first, avoid wrong action. Some activities you already know are wrong, big ones such as cheating, stealing, lying. But also fudging the numbers just a bit, “borrowing” supplies from the office, shading the truth a little because it’s convenient. These are wrong actions and do not lead where you and I want to go.
Other actions may turn out over time to be mistakes. These you may not be able to avoid but catch and correct them as soon as you can.
. . . At the Right Time
Pick the right time. Be strategic. Not all actions can or should be taken immediately; some challenges and opportunities require precise timing to maximize their impact. [Maxwell] In these cases, be patient and be prepared to act when the time comes.
“Strike while the iron is hot.” When the opportunity arises to take a necessary action, grab it. This means being vigilant and prepared so that when the right time comes, you can take advantage of it and take action
But, don’t try to rush things. Rushing a decision may lead to premature actions, like building a straw house when a wind storm is in the forecast. Be prepared to act when the time and conditions are right but don’t be impulsive.
Finally, be adaptable. Taking action at the right time isn’t always about seizing the opportunity. It also requires that you are flexible, willing and able to adapt and change strategies in the face of evolving situations.
The Right Moves at the Right Times: A Fitness Story
Megan wants to be more active. She sets a short-term goal to add 30 minutes of activity (walking, weight training, HIIT exercises) per day, for four days per week.
What does taking the right action at the wrong time look like? Megan has a busy week coming up so she decides to double up and do 2 hours of activity all at once. First off, this is not conducive to her long-term physical well-being; it is more beneficial to take three one-mile walks spread throughout the day over one three-mile walk. Second, she is so sore she can’t do her planned activity for the next several days. It was the right action but at the wrong time.
What does taking the wrong action at the right time look like? Megan plans to go to the gym this morning but decides to check Facebook “really quick” before she starts out. Two hours later, she realizes what she’s doing but it’s now too late to make it to her workout. It was the right time but the wrong action.
What does taking the wrong action at the wrong time look like? Megan plans to get up at 5:00 AM on her workout days to go to the gym. But, the night before her planned workout day, she gets interested in a TV show and binge-watches five episodes. She doesn’t get to bed until 1:00 AM, sleeps through her 5:00 alarm, and misses the gym class. This was the wrong action at the wrong time.
What does taking the right action at the right time look like? Megan plans 15-20 minutes of activity in the morning and again in the afternoon. She sets up a schedule of dates and times when she’ll do her activities. Sometimes she takes a brisk walk. Sometimes she goes to the gym. At other times she works out at home. She plans around her other responsibilities so that she knows when and where she’ll do her workouts. At the end of the month, she is well on her way to making exercise a habit. This was the right action at the right time.
How To Take the Right Action At the Right Time
Effective timing requires a combination of knowledge, intuition, and strategic thinking. To help yourself take the right action at the right time more often than not, consider these ideas.
Have clear goals. It may be your BIG goal, it may be a project at work, it may be a task you want to complete today. Or anything in between. Knowing your desired outcome helps you prioritize your actions and determine the proper time to take them.
Plan ahead. Once you know what target you’re shooting for, write down the steps you’ll need to take over time and the order you’ll take them. To stay consistent, develop a checklist or other way to track your daily progress.
Trust your gut. Analyzing and planning are critical but sometimes your gut feelings can alert you to the right time to act. Combine planning and intuition for a broader perspective.
Be flexible and adaptable. “You have to start with a plan but the plan you start with will not be the plan that gets you there.” [Olson] Be willing to adjust your actions and timing as changes in your situation dictate.
Monitor your progress. Regularly step back and assess your progress. If your actions or timing are not yielding the expected results, it may be time to try something new. (See the above step.)
Be patient. Not all actions need immediate attention. You can’t do everything at once. Not all actions provide immediate results. Don’t pull up the plant to see how the roots are growing. Do your best and trust that the right action at the right time will lead to the desired end.
Make the Right Choice
Action is required to reach your BIG goals and in every area of your Excelerated Life™. Not just any action will do, however. Wrong action or the wrong time can lead to misunderstandings, inconvenience, even disaster. To have the maximum effectiveness, choose the right action and the right time.
This could be now. But not necessarily. To choose the right action and the right time, be clear about what you want to achieve. Plan ahead, but be flexible and patient, and listen to your intuition. If you follow these guidelines, then you will – more often than not – do the right thing at the right time. And that is embracing your Excelerated Life™!
Have you ever done the wrong thing at the wrong time?
What were the results?
Share your experience by leaving a comment below.
Excelerated Movement™ — taking right action in pursuit of your goals — is one practice for creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.
Maxwell, John C. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. HarperCollins Leadership, 1998.
Olson, Jeff. The Slight Edge. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2005-2013.
This blog post includes research and suggestions provided by ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI. The content was generated with AI assistance and is intended to provide information and guidance. Please note that the suggestions are not official statements from OpenAI. To learn more about ChatGPT and its capabilities, you can visit the OpenAI website.