If you are active in self-help or corporate circles, you have probably come across the term “massive action”. Popularized by motivational speakers like Tony Robbins and Grant Cardone, it refers to taking consistent action over a long period of time until you’ve achieved your goal.
The problem with this approach lies in the word “massive”. When faced with such a demand, many people tend to feel the need to make an effort or go home. We believe that if we don’t create a big plan and make big and bold ones at the same time, then our project is not worth any effort. Or we end up putting too much pressure on ourselves and quickly becoming overwhelmed and exhausted. As a result, we find ourselves in a state of inaction.
Coined by the 33rd President of the United States, Harry Truman, the term “imperfect action” works best for most people. Imperfect Action offers a much more sustainable and realistic approach to achieving our goals. It’s about starting right where you are, with the resources you have at that time. Flawed action is taking quick, small, and often messy actions consistently over time.
As the world’s first imperfect action coach and founder of Progress coaching, Emma Norris has built her unique methodology and activity around this approach. She first discovered the term when she needed it most: as a exhausted freelance writer.
“I was taking on more and more client work and scrambling from the early hours of the morning until late at night to do everything,” says Norris. “It meant that by the time I was done, I didn’t have the time or energy to start the kind of business I wanted – one where I wasn’t chained to my desk all the time. ! ”
When Norris encountered the Flawed Action Approach, that all changed. “I was able to stop being all or nothing about everything, and simply use the pockets of time I had to take small imperfect steps towards my goals,” she explains. These steps included designing his own logo for his writing business and creating a quick, one-hour downloadable guide that got him discovered by an international publishing house.
In no time, his imperfect small steps had contributed to substantial progress. Norris was able to develop his blog, A girl in progress, to over 100,000 readers in less than a year, and make over six figures as a copywriter working only three days a week. Since then, imperfect action has also helped Norris accomplish other feats – like writing his first book, Progress on perfection, in less than four months, and by enrolling 3000 students in its first course, Procrastinator at Action Taker.
Now, Norris is passionate about helping other perfectionists unlock their limitless potential through flawed action. She works with creative and motivated women to overcome procrastination, crushing, and other self-sabotaging behaviors to make meaningful progress toward their goals.
Here, Norris shares his top tips for taking imperfect action in your life and business.
Set yourself micro-goals.
Where taking massive action involves big, bold steps, an imperfect action is to break them down into the smallest unit of measure possible. Because when you are at the foot of a mountain and looking at the top, the path to your destination can seem overwhelming. Breaking it down into a series of small steps makes it a lot less overwhelming and more doable. For example, if your big goal is to give a TED talk, some micro goals you could take would be to listen to a talk in your space, or follow someone on Instagram who has done this before. These steps may seem tiny, but they are really going to give you the momentum you need to continue to achieve your goals.
Take the path of least resistance.
Taking imperfect action is all about propelling yourself into quick action – and sometimes that means taking the easier route. It’s not about being lazy, it’s about working smarter, not harder. I’m always on the lookout for the next step I can take to achieve my goals without too much hassle, over-thinking, or over-planning. So if I want to create a website for a new project, I’m probably going to find a nice template that I like and will be happy to use with minimal customization. I can always bring in a designer and perfect it later. There is no shame in taking the path of least resistance. Just make sure that you are looking for your future as well.
Aim for excellence over perfection.
Many high performing students are reluctant to let go of perfectionism because they believe it will impact the quality of the work they do. But it’s not about becoming complacent and careless. It is simply the law of diminishing returns in action. There comes a point in any production process when adding just one more thing will decrease overall output and be more of a hindrance than a help. I find that the search for excellence is a good compromise. You always feel like you are doing your best, you just aren’t striving for something that doesn’t exist: perfection.
Be prepared to learn by doing.
Some people are reluctant to start taking action to achieve a goal because they feel like they don’t have a clear path from point A to point B. The point is, action breeds clarity. While it’s important to have a rough idea of your next steps, you really won’t know what this whole process is going to look like or expect you to start moving forward. Once you’ve taken those first steps, it lights up the path ahead. You may realize that you need to correct your course, invest, or practice something that you hadn’t considered before. But you will only get this information if you go for it.