What Is an Action Mindset? A Prerequisite for Success

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Magic of Thinking Big" by David J. Schwartz. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here .

What does it mean to have an action mindset? Do you consider yourself an action-oriented person?

As the name suggests, an action mindset is a mindset that is geared towards taking action. People who have an action-oriented mindset don’t wait for the stars to align or for the muse to pay a visit. They take action even in suboptimal circumstances because non-action kills momentum.

Here are five mindsets that all action-oriented people have in common.

What Does It Mean to Have an Action-Oriented Mindset?

Successful people tend to have an action mindset—they have developed the habit of taking action even when things are not perfect.

All action-oriented people tend to profess the following five attitudes.

  • Nothing is ever going to be perfect, so don’t wait for perfection to act. 
  • Action cures fear, and fear is what is stopping you from taking action.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration. Just start acting, and inspiration will come.
  • Think “now,” not “later.”
  • Take initiative. Other people will respect this.

1) Nothing Is Ever Going to Be Perfect

Many Passivationists want to wait for everything to be perfect before they take action. But conditions, timing, and other people are never going to be perfect. 

  • People will never be perfect. 
    • A man in his late thirties wanted to get married and have a family and a perfect life. He wrote a prenup detailing everything from his future wife’s behavior to what kind of friends they would have. His fiance balked and called it off, saying “for better or for worse” was good enough for her. 
    • Successful people know that people are not perfect; working through the inevitable problems is worth it in relationships.
  • Timing will never be perfect. 
    • You and your partner dream of buying a house, but you think if you wait, the market may improve. But waiting may not be the answer; it could very well be the wrong time later for other reasons.
    • Successful people think creatively and find ways to make their goals, such as buying a home, a reality even when issues crop up.
  • Conditions will never be perfect.
    • You want to take your family on a road trip when things are just right. But if you waited until conditions were perfect (weather, no bad drivers, perfect roadways), you’d never go. 
    • Successful people face bad conditions and find creative solutions. They don’t wait for conditions to be perfect before they take action. 

Successful people take action, meet problems as they arise, and work them out creatively along the way.

2) Action Cures Fear

When we put off our goals because we’re afraid of the potential roadblocks ahead, we do our excellent ideas a disservice. These ideas — what we could have accomplished — can come back to haunt us. 

  • Fear leads to lost opportunities and regret. The author refers to this as the “ghost of ideas coming back to haunt you.” 
    • Think of a talented writer with an intriguing voice and a compelling subject. If he lets fear and life get in the way and never writes his book, he’ll feel enormous regret for what might have been
  • Successful people give their ideas value by acting upon them. When they act on their ideas they gain peace of mind and confidence. There’s no pondering “what might have been” had they written the book, started the business, bought the property, run the race. They are no longer afraid of the unknown because they know it.

Action destroys fear and creates confidence. 

  • Are you dreading making a certain phone call? Make the call and the fear is gone.
  • Dread going to the dentist? Grit your teeth (so to speak) and just go. The fear that had been plaguing you is erased and your confidence is bolstered. 

3) Don’t Wait for Inspiration

What if you are in a creative profession, such as writing or art? You may think you need inspiration, to wait for the “spirit to move you” to take action.

But inspiration isn’t necessary for action, even in a creative endeavor. Successful people don’t wait for the spirit to move them; instead, they move the spirit. They jump right in and get going. 

The key to this is a “mechanical approach.” Simply do the actions that you need to, and the inspiration will come.

  • If a writer isn’t feeling inspired, but still has deadlines to meet, she could just start writing, jotting down any thoughts that come to mind. Sooner or later, her mind will get back on track track and cooperate, spurring creative thinking.
  • Think of an unpleasant chore that has to get done (the dishes, calling a difficult client). Now stop thinking about it — simply jump right in and get going without deliberation or dread.
  • Grab a pencil and paper to jot down an idea and map out a plan. Writing down your idea ties your mind to the idea more firmly and boosts your concentration, helping you jump-start your spirit to take the necessary action.

4) Think “Now,” Not “Later”

“Now” is a magic word — a word of action. Words such as “someday,” “tomorrow,” “after this thing happens,” are words of inaction. Successful people are conditioned to take action now.

Be inspired by the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” 

  • Need to send a long overdue thank you note? Sit down, write it, and send it. 
  • Have an idea that might help your business? Present it now. 
  • Have you been thinking about starting a savings plan, but expenses seem too tight? Start it now anyway. 

Beware of a common habit of inaction: preparing to act. Preparing to act is a time-killer that wastes precious energy and resources you could be using to act right now.

  • A college student sets aside the night before a big test for some serious study time. But first he’s hungry, so he eats. 
  • Then he feels full, so he relaxes a bit in front of the TV. 
  • Then just when he’s about to get back to studying, he remembers a phone call he needs to make. 
  • Then he has to throw some laundry into the washer, and meets with friends and stops to chat. 
  • Then he thinks a shower will help him concentrate, but after his shower he feels like a snack. 
  • It goes on and on. An evening of intended studying melts away. Inaction has taken over.  

This bad habit of preparing to act instead of acting now strikes students, business people, teachers — anyone in any endeavor. It’s a time and energy waster. Successful people break this habit by conditioning themselves to begin the task at hand now, not later. They use their “getting ready” time and energy to get going on their project — right now. 

5) Take Initiative

Initiative is taking action without being told to take action. A person who takes initiative is highly sought after in every organization and relationship because they get things done and make things happen.

Successful people have built the habit of taking initiative in their work and personal life. They “take the bull by the horns” and do the things others have ignored or don’t want to deal with.

There are a few ways to practice taking initiative:

  • Speak up and have your ideas heard. Don’t sit in the background, then later silently grouse, “no one every listens to my great ideas.”
  • When you see something you believe in, take the ball and run with it. Become a crusader for what you believe in.
    • Say you are bothered by a neglected area near your home. You see potential for a playground. You gather resources, rally the neighbors, and through your enthusiasm and initiative, create a fantastic space. 
  • Volunteer for whatever duty is needed. Don’t be afraid of being ridiculed for being a “go-getter.” The people who actually matter appreciate your initiative.

Taking initiative helps you become an Activationist. People place great confidence in those who take action — they automatically assume she knows what she’s doing. 

What Is an Action Mindset? A Prerequisite for Success

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of David J. Schwartz's "The Magic of Thinking Big" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full The Magic of Thinking Big summary :

  • The strategies and techniques that successful people use
  • How to find victory in every setback
  • How to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

2 thoughts on “What Is an Action Mindset? A Prerequisite for Success

  • September 5, 2022 at 4:13 pm

    Great article! It was very helpful and informative.

    • June 12, 2024 at 1:50 am

      Nuce information given


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *