Motion vs Action: Here’s Why Doing Beats Planning Every Time

March 21, 2024

James Clear sheds light on the difference between motion and taking action in his book, Atomic Habits.

“We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action. 

As Voltaire once wrote, “The best is the enemy of the good.”

I refer to this as the difference between being in motion and taking action. 

The two ideas sound similar, but they're not the same.

When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result.

Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome.

  • If I outline twenty ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually write and publish an article, that’s action.
  • If I search for a better diet plan and read a few books on the topic, that’s motion. If I actually eat a healthy meal, that’s action.
  • If I go to the gym and ask about getting a personal trainer, that’s motion. If I actually step under the bar and start squatting, that’s action.

Sometimes motion is useful, but it will never produce an outcome by itself.

It doesn’t matter how many times you go talk to the personal trainer, that motion will never get you in shape. Only the action of working out will get the result you’re looking to achieve.”

James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

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