Are You Taking Passive Action or Massive Action?


Whenever we start something new, we need to make a decision: Am I committed to passive action or massive action?

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I first heard about this idea from Brooke Castillo (check out her wonderful podcast here). She describes massive action as taking action until you get the result you want.

Except most of us get confused between massive action and passive action.

The difference between these types of action is simple but important:

[Tweet "Passive action = consumption. Massive action = creating."]

Passive action is reading books, taking classes, registering for courses, and talking to people about our plans. All of these things can feel productive, and that’s where the danger lies: we’re not actually doing something that will directly take us closer to our goal. Massive action, on the other hand, is actually going out and utilising what we’ve learned.

This resonated with me as I’m currently preparing to speak at the Alive in Berlin conference in May. I know it’s going to be awesome, and I’m also feeling pretty darn nervous about the whole thing. So of course, I’ve read a book on public speaking, I’ve bookmarked a ton of articles about it, I’ve watched several TED talks, and I’m considering joining an online course.

All of those things feel like preparation and feel like productive things to do… except none of those things are any kind of substitute for actually speaking—actually sitting down, preparing my workshop, practising my butt off, then doing the talk itself.

And that’s the problem with passive action. Yes, whenever we do something new, it’s helpful to read a book, take a course, talk to some people about it. But at some point, the time for those things is done, and if we continue to do those things beyond that point, we are just hiding from ourselves.

At its core, passive action is really about opting out of feeling intense feelings.

Being willing to fall flat on our face is terrifying. It brings up all our stuff about rejection, judgement, abandonment, inadequacy, and so much more. Our brains process rejection in the same way as they process physical pain (which explains why we use the phrase “a slap in the face” as a metaphor for rejection).

Massive action is about inviting those emotions in and truly feeling them. Because, as “life or death” as they feel, they are not actually life or death. The worst that can happen is another emotion.

Massive action is the thing that’s going to introduce you to yourself and all those feelings we try so hard to avoid. Passive action is deceptive: it can feel like we’re doing so much! We end up feeling exhausted, but it’s an exhaustion that is induced by hiding. Massive action is exhausting in a way that gets us closer to our goals.

Have you been taking passive action or massive action? Leave a comment and share your experience.

Further reading: 5 truths to remember when you're struggling with confidence & emotional first aid