Build State, But Don’t Depend On It

Boy, do I have some rust to shake off. It’s been over a week since I’ve written a blog post. I took a trip to Dallas for Spring Break as a means to deal with the burn out I’d been going through, and I haven’t done any work since before leaving for the trip.

It was a well earned break. It was my first vacation in three years, and I’d needed it. Unfortunately, I’ve lost all the work momentum I’d acquired prior to going on vacation. Today is my third day back, and this is the first time I’ve worked.

I’ve been procrastinating ever since I’ve returned, and though I’m not proud of my behavior this situation has brought an interesting concept to my attention. I’ve realized there’s two keys to taking action.

Craft Your Environment/Generate State

The first key to taking action is crafting your environment and/or using techniques to generate a state within yourself conductive to your success. Though these may intertwine at times they can be exclusive from each other as well, and they include anything that makes taking action easier.

If you’re trying to eat healthier, crafting your environment could include only keeping healthy food in the house. If you’re trying to be a more positive person crafting an environment may mean eliminating negative people from your life.

Generating a beneficial psychological state within yourself can also be beneficial for taking action. A simple example of this is music. Listening to Journey may help you enter an inspired mood, while listening to Nicki Minaj may cause you to want to violently cut your ears off.

For a more complex example let’s say you’re at a party and there’s a pretty girl you’d like to talk to, but feel intimidated by.

Instead of feeling bad about being a coward simply begin interacting with other people, and by putting yourself into a social mood talking to the dime piece won’t feel as intimidating.

Do The Damn Thing

While crafting an environment conductive to your success and generating flow are two effective methods in decreasing the amount of willpower needed to take action they also have a dark side. You can become dependent on them.

Instead of writing when you need to write you may rationalize that you can’t because you haven’t had a perfect night of sleep. Alternatively, you may believe that you only have the ability, or entitlement to talk to your perfect 10 when you’ve acquired a massive amount of social momentum and are in a great state, and this simply isn’t true.

Having an environment conductive to your success, or being in the perfect state shouldn’t be requirements to taking action. They should be a bonus.

We tend to underestimate what we’re capable of in even the worst of states. Maybe being in a perfect mood will give you a 50% chance of things working out with the cute girl at the party, but even if you start the night in a bad mood and only have a 5% chance of things working out isn’t it still worth a try?

Here’s what’s interesting. Though being in a flow state can make taking action easier this process also works in reverse. Taking action can help you enter a flow state.

Talking to the cute girl isn’t particularly intimidating when you’ve been building up a social mood with your friends for several hours. However, though possibly more difficult, talking to lots of cute girls can also lead you to entering a flow state, and thus allow you to maximize your social abilities more quickly.

For a work-related example let’s take writing. Because this was the first time I wrote in 9 days it was incredibly difficult to write coherently. At the beginning I wasn’t at all articulate, and I’m still struggling, but 600 words into this post and I’m starting to get a glimpse of the flow I had when I was writing everyday.

Though I’m certainly not at my best right now in regards to writing, my fingers keep going because I understand that I can’t be reliant on being in the perfect state to write blog posts or I’ll never get anything published.

You’ve got to be the same way in the things important to you. Optimize your state for what you can, but at the end of the day you’ve got to take action and produce a result whether you feel like it or not. Fortunately, you’ll often find the desire to take more action follows your first step.

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