Act Before You Think

Ideas lead to actions, but actions can also lead to ideas.

Herbert Lui

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Photo: Mediocre Studio/ Unsplash

A few days ago, I tweeted a quote from Austrian American scientist Heinz von Foerster, “If you want to think differently, first learn to act differently.” Foerster was also known as a pioneer in the field of cybernetics, which investigates communications and automatic control systems in machines and living beings. I’d included this in my book Creative Doing, in a prompt entitled, “From action comes progress.”

I received a great response to this quote, “Action presupposes thought. Different action requires different thought… Any action directed at a desired result must start with a thought. If it’s arbitrary, how can you expect your desired outcome?”

In other words, in this perspective or paradigm, any action requires a corresponding thought. How can one act differently before one thinks differently? In this case, thinking causes doing; there is no doing without thinking. It’ll look something like this:

More often than not, this conceptual model causes a lot of people to get stuck. It makes us constantly think we need to get more thinking done before we can actually move forward with the doing. If we just think our way into the perfect plan, collect enough research, and anticipate and mitigate all possible negative outcomes, then we’ll be able to do perfectly.

In the Thinking Doing Linear Sequence, we live our lives like Ocean’s Eleven; only after we plan out the perfect heist, recruit the perfect team, then we can execute.

This conceptual model works well with fiction, and not so well with reality. You and I are finite beings, and we have a craving for control of how things turn out. We don’t want to relinquish results or relax our expectations; the longer we spend working on something, the better it has to turn out. It’s the only way…

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Herbert Lui

Covering the psychology of creative work for content creators, professionals, hobbyists, and independents. Author of Creative Doing: https://www.holloway.com/cd