Act/Think…not Think/Act

A significant milestone in your career occurs when you realize that you are not progressing and you must change, improve and transform yourself.

As Marshall Goldsmith says in his book called “What got you here won’t get you there” the title says  it all. You’re stuck and you’re not progressing. Why?

There may be a variety of reasons for this but one of the most important elements relates to commitment and how we perceive commitment. You may think and feel that you are committed to change yet you are not getting to ‘first base’ of progress.

We often think that we have to first develop commitment to a choice before we make a decision but research shows us that we develop increased commitment to our choices after we make a decision.  Brain science is fascinating in order to help us understanding commitment because it demonstrates that in order to make a change – albeit a large change, it is best to Act and Think  rather than Think and Act.

Sometimes we may not want to change our way of doing things and we rationalize previous methods. Let’s assume that after careful feedback from your leader you need to delegate more effectively since it’s been discovered that you prefer to keep control. In order to climb the corporate ladder you need to address this shortcoming real fast.

The change you seek can be accomplished in small, progressive steps. At each step the brain is rewired for the new task or way of doing something and these new found skills in turn motivate the brain even further hence, acting first then thinking.

This situation reminds me of a childhood joke:

Q. How do you eat an elephant?            A. One small piece at a time!

Slowly you get to achieve the major change that you seek. Daniel Pink said it clearly in his book  “Drive” – “… reminding yourself that you don’t need to be a master by day 3 is the best way of ensuring that you become a master by day 3000.”

Key learnings:

1) Brain Science research shows us that we develop increased commitment to our choices after  we make a decision.

2) Make multiple small decisions on the way to a big decision because at each step of the way, the chosen path will increase commitment to that decision.

3) Avoid making big leaps since they are very difficult and you may postpone change due to this.

4) Recognize that it takes a long time to develop commitment to a large change in your life but by making small decisions you can help yourself because each decision increases commitment.

Finally to quote Neurosciences leading authority Srini Pillay (@sirinipillay):  “One way to increase the chances of commitment to a new goal is to make small decisions along the way.  Every time you make this decision, you reward the brain and its signal becomes even stronger, propelling you in the direction of the desired change.”


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