Puzzles don’t finish themselves. Whether it’s our own projects or it’s work for our clients, somebody has to figure out how all of those pieces fit together into one big picture. I’ve been working on a few different projects lately and trying to figure out why even though stuff was being done, some days I could see progress and others there was none. What’s spinning my wheels and what’s actually rolling, preferably forward? Enter James Clear who provided some labels to clear things up for me. This is useful for clients too.
Clear says that there’s a difference between motion and action. Motion is a kind tinkering from the sidelines. Motion is spinning the wheel, off of the ground to make sure it’s turning properly. Somebody wants to get healthy so they talk to a personal trainer, or they want to write a book so they go out and research ideas. Motion can even be used to store the energy to take the next step, but just talking to trainers or researching the book doesn’t make you healthy or get your book written.
Action is anything that directly moves the needle. Action is the wheel on the ground, rolling. The health-conscious person is doing squats and pushups. The writer is hammering out a chapter. Action can be smaller too. A single squat or a single sentence is still building on the pre-work done in motion. Action is executing and execution is the mark of progress.
We can do a lot of valuable connecting with clients when they’re in motion. Philosophizing, questioning, educating, even rapport building – they all matter but they’re not progress. We create tangible value when we start taking action. When we get our clients or ourselves to the decision point so the rubber meets the road or the puzzle piece snaps into place, then we have measurable progress.
We need both motion and action, but the distinction can be helpful so we know which mode we’re in. All motion without action can feel frustratingly slow or even like we’re stuck. All action without motion can feel like we’re flailing. A balance and respect for the role each play can keep us focused. Ask if the task at and hand is for motion or action. At the end of the day, action is essential. But, so is making sure the wheel can turn unobstructed. Divide and balance, then make progress.