Member preview

Why Taking Action Isn’t As Easy As People Think (And How to Change It)

What’s wrong with “What’s stopping you?”.

“So, what’s stopping you?”

Well, a lot, actually.

If you’ve read any of my posts, you know that I lean towards the “take action every day all the time!” philosophy. While this works for me, I know it doesn’t work for everyone. Unfortunately, I’ve seen first-hand how trying to be supportive and telling someone to “just do it” can scare or even embarrass them. Therefore, this post is for those who can’t “just do it,” and why it’s not as easy as listening/following those three words.

A short sentence that isn’t simple

One of the tried-and-true ways to quickly motivate someone is to tell them to “just do it.” Whatever “it” is, they “should just do it” and not worry about anything else. It’s a quick (and a little cheap) way to end any conversation where someone is thinking about taking action. You told them to do it, so now it’s in their hands, and you’ve done your good deed for the day.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Here is a video from 1987 from an Insurance Executive named Art Williams titled, appropriately, “Just Do It.”

Since everything is getting re-booted nowadays, you are probably more familiar with this speech’s re-boot by Shia LaBeouf in 2015.

Let me start by saying watching those videos back-2-back makes you want to move. I immediately want to quit everything, put a table and computer in the garage, and wait for the inevitable idea that will turn me into the next Google.

The videos have a great message, but they ignore the reason why people who can “just do it” are successful.

Spoiler Alert: It has nothing to do with either of those videos, and those people “just did it” long before those videos were made.

We want to believe we, and really anyone, can “just do it.” That’s what is holding us back, right? The fact that we didn’t take action? So, if it’s that simple, why do we not take action?

It starts before the choice

It all starts with a mindset — something not easily changed. When you are thinking about something you have to do, and deciding if you can do it, you are weighing the pros and cons. Naturally, you think more about the cons than the pros.

This is the hidden challenge with the videos. When we are thinking about a decision, we are asking ourselves if we can live by choosing an action and it not working. The videos talk about achieving your dreams, but what if we fail?

People who “just do it” are not successful because they take action; they are successful because they are o.k. when they do it and it doesn’t work.

This kind of mindset is hard for many people and just shouting three words to them doesn’t help . The trouble is, if I can’t “just do it,” that’s because I either can’t risk the failure, or I can’t risk feeling like a failure. The failure might not be bad or big, but maybe I will feel like a failure, and that’s worse than anything. There is a huge difference between I failed (as in it was an action resulting in an undesired consequence which doesn’t negatively affect me) vs. believing I am a failure (as in it is part of my identity).

You may be the person who hears those words and jumps up in a battle-ready stance. You may also be someone who, upon hearing it, face a grim realization of a fear you don’t know how to get rid of and makes you feel inadequate.

Jon Gordon (, a motivational speaker who promotes a positive way of life, talks about L.O.S.S. as a positive thing. He defines L.O.S.S. as “Learning Opportunity, Stay Strong.” He doesn’t say you’re always going to win, and he doesn’t say mistakes must be avoided. He simply states that it’s o.k. to lose, you can use it to hopefully not lose again, and most important — to keep going.

It’s not easy, but it can be done

There is nothing wrong with you or anyone who just can’t “just do it.” Too many times, I’ve heard of people who are told to ­just do _____________, and then they don’t (for all the reasons listed above), and they feel bad about not being able to take a simple step. People who try to motivate you with this tactic mean well, but its o.k. if you can’t just switch it on as easily as they think.

Before you take any action, you have to make peace with the fact that it may not work, and that’s o.k.

You not succeeding is not the same as you being a failure.

If you want to try this, you have to know you are changing your default mindset, so it will take time. I don’t expect you to wake up tomorrow and say “I’M A CHANGED PERSON FOREVER THANKS DEAN!”

However, I do expect you to start somewhere, anywhere, and tell yourself you may fail, but you won’t be a failure. Know your worth, which is not tied to whether you won or lost something. You tried, and you failed, and that’s the first step in not failing again.


Thank you for reading this post. My goal is to help others, so I am always willing to listen. Content should start conversation. Feel free to share this with someone who may need it but, above everything else, please let me know what your thought, here or on Twitter (@DaaconD).