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Conceptualizing human actions from a psychological perspective

  • Many people don’t know what they want to do, so they do nothing. Some people know what they want to do but still do nothing. And some people spend a ton of time going to seminars, reading and learning about what they want to do, but they never actually take any action on what they learn. While it seems like all these people should be experiencing satisfaction, fulfilment and success in their lives, they really don’t. This can be so frustrating and overwhelming.

    Implications of taking actions

    What does it mean to be active and proactive?

    If you take no action after you have acquired knowledge or skill, it is synonymous to having learned nothing. If you have a passion, without complementing it with a corresponding action that gradually moves you toward realizing your vision, you are being ridiculous and simply wasting your existence; what a tragedy!

    No matter where you are in life, taking action is crucial. "The doers are the major thinkers. The people that really create the things that change this industry are both the thinker and doer in one person" - Steve Jobs. It doesn’t matter if you know where you want to go and what goals you want to reach or if you feel like you are just floating around trying to find something to hang onto. Taking action is going to help you get to where you want to go and benefit your life in so many ways. Consider this analogy, "you wish to get food from the kitchen, you are hungry and you really want to eat, but you are quite aware that if you refused to leave where you are sitting, there is no how you will get that food." It is exactly the same way as to you yearning to become this or that; a community developer, a businessman/woman, a scholar, a psychologist, a doctor, a lecturer, a pilot, a researcher, a scientist or any profession you are interested in, you will make no progress nor become who you really desire to be without acting out those desires.

    Everyone has the ability to take action. It doesn’t take money. It doesn’t take experience. It doesn’t take anything except for the desire and willingness to go ahead and do something, and yes to be productive. All the planning and scheduling will be useless unless you take action. Once you have gotten as far as creating a specific schedule, it is generally easier to motivate yourself to take action.

    But what if you are stuck? What if the best schedule you could produce is patchy and incomplete? The answer is the same – take action! Just because you do not know the whole route does not mean that you cannot start the journey.

    The concept of action

    Action simply means an act of doing something. Psychologists define it as a set of overt behaviours that are triggered by certain stimuli aimed at achieving a goal or satisfying particular needs. According to Freedman (1982) action constitutes 5 basic components namely:

    • Stimulus (Motivation)
    • Thoughts
    • Emotions
    • Behaviours
    • Consequences

    Stimuli (motivation)

    Every action is always preceded by a stimulus. A stimulus is anything, any cue that triggers a reaction - thought, behaviour or emotion. Any stimulus - thing, person, past experience etc that compel us to act in certain ways are linked to motivation. Motivation is any factor or force that drives us to act in a way.

    Thoughts

    Thoughts are innate constructs that are formed in the mind; which are synonymous to brain function. Some psychologists argue that thoughts make up the mind. Thoughts are abstract and they play a significant role in what we do and what we don't do. Thoughts may depict our imaginations, creativity, attitude, processed information, conceptualization, perceptions etc.

    Emotions

    Emotions are our physiological responses to our thoughts. They are feelings that are aroused by the brain that serve to maintain our psychological homeostatic balance. When thoughts are becoming strange (either in a constructive way or not), the brain responds by making you feel a little uncomfortable or anxious. How this can be managed will be discussed as we proceed.

    Behaviour

    Behaviours are a set of responses that are usually observable and which express our thoughts and emotions. Behaviours help others to determine our level of functioning. Our thoughts, emotions and behaviours are basic building blocks that form who we are.

    Consequences

    Consequences are the relation of an antecedent. In other words, they are results that follow our behaviours and determine if we will continue exhibiting such acts or not. According to B. F. Skinner and other behaviourists, the stimulus (consequence) that follows our behaviours strengthen or weaken a particular set of actions and play a significant role in forming our habits. For example, if after completing every task, you feel fulfilled or get recharge cards or any form of reward, your focus on completing tasks is reinforced.

    However, sometimes we are in dilemma or clueless about which behaviour is to be exhibited or what thoughts should be entertained. You may get to decide this when you consider certain criteria that have been identified in productive people's actions as discussed below.

    Criteria for deciding actions to take

    Our parents, mentors, teachers, neighbours will not always be around to guide or direct us. It is therefore very important that we identify key factors or criteria that help us engage in fruitful and useful actions. We must understand that actions that are productive, significant and healthy will help us achieve our goals faster and effectively. We need to also note that, actions are on the continuum and a continuous process. We have to keep acting in ways that correspond with our vision and goals before we can truly achieve phenomenal success.

    The following are the basic criteria to consider before you engage in any action. Note; you must have spent a lot of time with yourself, reflecting on your purpose, your wishes, your likes and dislikes including your strengths and weakness, your opportunities must be identified. All of these will be discussed later on our blog.

    Basic action criteria

    To be more productive, ensure that every action of yours meets at least three of the following six criteria: (Jonathan Freedman 1982).

    • Passion: Your actions and activities need to be loved and cherished by you. "If you don’t love them, you’re going to fail" - Steve Jobs. Try to link or relate your passion to any commitment you are into; that way you will be self-motivated and less tired. Your creativity will shine forth, and you will achieve greater success in lesser time. Doing what you love doing will always fuel your energy. Let your actions be an expression of love, beauty and selflessness. This requires you discover yourself; potentials, strengths, weaknesses etc. As revealed in a statement by Ben Carson; "We need to recognize our talents and use them appropriately and choose a field that uses those talents, we will rise to the top of our field."
    • Significance: Is the action really important? How important is it to achieving your goals or reaching your highest potential? You must set priorities and complete the most needful/necessary tasks before subsequent ones. "You just had to get some ideas of what matters and what doesn't " - Lev Grossman.
    • Excellence: Do the best job you can do. Shun mediocrity and laziness, put in your efforts, learn more to ensure whatever you do is done to create worthy things and will have a significant impact. "Productivity is never an accident, it is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort" - Paul J. Meyer.
    • Happiness: When we do what makes us happy, being happy is different from merely getting pleasure. Therefore, ensure that you look inward to ask if what you are doing is giving you genuine happiness, sense of wellbeing and gratitude. When it is, then it is the happiness you are experiencing. Being truly happy by doing things that are harmonious with our core being (potentials, talents purpose is an effective way to keep attracting events that support and increase happiness (Easterlin 2005). This stimulates our intelligence, talents and strengths.
    • Truth: Adopt integrity in all that you do. Ensure you reflect your true nature. The true nature of every human is goodness (Carl Rogers). Therefore, be sure to be modest, real, and sincere in all that you do. Make sure what you are doing can be revealed and that it matches with your divine purpose. "First and last, what is demanded of genius is love of truth" - Johann Wolfgang
    • Justice: What is higher than perfection is consistently and persistently acting with balance. That is, ensure that you are not intentionally causing harm while performing the relative tasks. "A man's potential and abilities cease to manifest when he/she refuses to stand up for the truth, the right and justice" - Martin Luther.

    Every individual's success is dependent on the actions they take and how effective those actions are. A high number of motivational speakers and of course articles discuss the need to be productive and what being productive means but only a few provides explicit information on how individuals can practically adopt the information to become more motivated to take actions and be more productive. Also, you must note that the above discussed criteria for taking action will be more useful if you practically adopt them. As you cannot lose weight by merely reading a book on how to lose weight until you practise the techniques learned from such a book. If you have made up your mind to achieve your goals, you need to take actions and let your actions be guided by those criteria. You will be amazed by the transformation and success you will experience if you allow yourself to reflect (act out) what you have learned in this article. You will get to understand more about why it is important to take actions and adopt the BAC.

    Benefits of taking actions

    • Personal development
    • It improves healthy lifestyle and the health
    • It enables success
    • It leads to optimal functioning and fulfilment
    • It brings about healthy relationships
    • We get to inspire others and equally feel more inspired
    • It promotes happiness
    • Our quality of life is improved through active participation
    • We get to reach our highest potential
    • It strengthens our spiritual cordiality with God
    • We get to make a positive difference in the world.
    • We are at a greater advantage to achieve excellence and prosperity.

    Side effects of taking actions

    They say there is nothing without an advantage without a disadvantage. Being fair and reasonable is about considering pro and con of things we want to do when the pro outweighs the con, then we are very good to forge ahead. The only side effect of engaging in significant, productive and healthy actions is the overwhelming feelings (especially as it regards being considered different by the society and family) which are only occasional and necessary to refine our abilities to adapt and function optimally, another side effect is that we have to sacrifice so much, sacrifice time, pleasure, some relationships etc., but this never matters when we are self-motivated, purposeful and constantly engage in mindfulness. Achieving our goals, satisfying our needs and gradually reaching for our highest potential are great accomplishments and beauty we don’t ever want to comprise with ephemeral pleasure that has the potential to impair our functioning and lifestyle. In addition, exercising, writing, reading, being more committed, seeking like-minded people can help us deal with the stress we experience during the course of our voyage of constructive change.

    In summary, one basic secret (that makes people exceptional and successful) you must note is that you need to be mindful and conscious before you engage in any action. During this period is when you consider your options of actions and select the one (s) that meet the aforementioned criteria. Considering all of these criteria will not only make you more productive, it will elevate your wellbeing, standard of living and also the society as a whole. Having more productive, purposeful and healthy people in the society will in no time uplift such society to unimaginable great space.

    You may want to continue reading on this article about human behaviour and productivity.

    References

    Easterlin, R. (2005) There an 'Iron Law of Happiness?' (January 2005). IEPR Working Paper No. 05.8.  Retrieved from: SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=653543.

    Jonathan, F. (1982) introductory Psychology. Toronto; Canada.

    Rogers, C. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality and interpersonal relationships as developed in the client-centred framework. In (ed.) S. Koch, Psychology: A study of science. Vol. 3:  Formulations of the person and the social context. New York: McGraw Hill. Retrieved from: https://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-rogers.html

    Skinner, B. (1954) Science and Human Behaviour. APA PsychNet. Retrieved from:https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1954-05139-000

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