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Goal Getting

Motion vs Action: Which One Is More Important for Success?

Written by Mandie Holgate
International Coach, Best Selling Author & Speaker inspiring people around the world to success.
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Like all things in life, success doesn’t have one finite answer that fits all. Success rises and falls like the tide, but if we can understand what impacts our ability to succeed, we can achieve more and stay on track. Learning about motion vs action is one crucial aspect of this.

Both motion and action play a role in our success, and the importance of each depends on the person and the situation.

We’re going to take a look at how motion and action affect the results and outcomes and how we can use both to our advantage.

Definition Of Action

An action is anything you do with a goal and certain intent in mind. Performing a deed backed by a purpose is an action.

An action is taken consciously. It requires physical or mental input. You first think of taking an action and then make the physical effort to fulfill this thought. You may or may not need to change your physical position to take an action.

Definition Of Motion

The motion itself is considered to be an action. When you move, you’re in motion. Scientifically, any object is in motion if it covers some distance or displacement with a certain speed or velocity in measured time.

In easy words, motion is related to movement even in terms of goal setting. Your physical position changes even if you end up exactly where you started. The point is, there is always some degree of physical input. As put by Meir Ezra, ‘You are as powerful as you are willing to cause motion’.


Motion Vs Action

These two terms are deeply connected yet contain important distinctions. Being in motion means that you are moving, but not necessarily in a specific direction. Maybe you are planning or strategizing or scheduling, preparing to take steps toward success.

Taking action means that you are taking concrete steps towards you goals[1]. This includes acting on all those things you planned during the “motion” stage. Because of this, action is often the direct road to success, but can we have action without motion?

Definition Of Success

Who doesn’t want to be successful? Of course, everyone aims to reach the ultimate podium of success. But, my idea of success is different from yours. In fact, we all have a different view of what success is. It is an extremely subjective case. Does this mean there is no specific way to describe success?

Well, if a definition has to be provided, success is defined as the completion of certain expectations, reaching some goals. For some, these expectations are to earn a certain amount of money. For others, it is about achieving mental peace. Whatever your goals are, they are always the opposite of what you consider to be a failure.

Moreover, this description of success keeps changing, even for an individual. Once you’ve reached the goals you planned, you move onto new goals that define your success at that point in life. So, initially, success can mean a stable independent life but once your circumstances change, your mindset can shift too. Then, a successful life for you might mean starting a family.


Why Action Often Leads Directly to Success

In my work, I’ve helped thousands to go from average to exceptional results. In many cases, the most important aspect was action, not motion. In fact, motion, in many of these cases, was the problem, not the solution.

Motion is about something moving around. My favourite visual way to showcase this is this:

I place a pen or a glass on the table and say, “See this pen, I’m going to pick this pen up.” I then pick the pen up. That’s action.

I then fold my hands and look at the item and say, “Now I’m not going to pick up this pen.” And I stand there looking at the glass or pen. Just for good measure, I add “Notice how I’m not picking up the pen?”

“I’m now going to try and pick up this pen.” I then push the pen around with my whole hand, knocking against it, using lots of energy, but I never actually do the action that led to picking up the pen in the first instance. When you are in motion, you use a lot of energy but rarely aim at any specific result.

I love this analogy for summing up how we often keep ourselves stuck in situations and results we don’t want by “moving” in a way that isn’t helpful. When you can see that, you have to work out how to alter your motions into the actions you need to get the results you want.

I often hear this with business owners. Business is a good place to see that no matter what you have achieved, you still have to move forward. You can’t do what you always did and get the same results. Business trends, customers needs, and even social and economic beliefs can impact your business, so you have to constantly adapt and progress. As a result, a business owner can feel like no matter what they do, it’s not enough.


Action includes planned and structured steps, whereas motion only includes planning and structuring. Action allows you to remain highly focused and accountable to your results so you can get there faster. Always be prepared to monitor what you are doing so you can see how this process effects your results.

Tips And Examples On Taking Action

In his book Rework, Jason Fried said, ‘What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.’

Your enthusiasm and intention are useless unless you focus on a doable action plan. Without actions, goals can never be fulfilled. Your effort has to be directed in one way. It keeps your motivation high and more importantly, helps avoid procrastination.

Here are some tips and examples to help you formulate a practical plan to take the actions that are necessary for your goals and aims.

1. Write Down Your Goals

Your actions need to be directed towards specific outcomes to make them count. So, start by writing down what you wish to achieve. Why do you want to take an action at all?

Answer this question as elaborately as possible. Break down the outcome into smaller, achievable goals. For example, your big goal is to lose weight. But instead of focusing on losing 10 lbs at a go, aim for smaller targets of losing 1 lb per fortnight. You may start with 5 pushups and later build it up to 50.


This will make it easy for you to take small actions that will impact your big goals. You won’t feel lost because there is an easy approach to the smaller goals.

2. Set A Deadline

Procrastination keeps you from taking an action most of the time. If you limit the time factor, things can get way easier. Whether you work well under pressure or like to get things done well in time, setting a deadline will work in either of these cases.

3. Polish Your Skills

Humans tend to hesitate to do something they don’t believe they’re good at.

You might be avoiding finishing your post-graduate application because deep down, you’re afraid you’ll struggle with it. Start by reading successful applications. Research tips to help you impress the reader. Find ways to get your message across in the most interesting way possible. Then, start practicing. Begin with a bulleted list of points you want to include in the application. Move on with several rough drafts. Take help from someone you think is better skilled.

You have to try to figure out what’s keeping you from taking a step forward. Focus on improving the skill before you move on with the rest of the plan. This not only increases your chance of success but will also give you more confidence.

4. Reward System

Actions are avoided with excuses. You don’t sleep on time at night which causes you to wake up late. This means you skip breakfast, sometimes miss your bus, get late to work, and your day always starts off with stress.

The reason why you’re unable to sleep early is your obsession with the new season of a show or a sport on your favorite channel. You can turn around the entire situation by using the reward system. Tell yourself that every day that you wake up on time, you’ll reward yourself with one episode of the show at night.


There is some restraint, some reward, but a lot of problem-solving. You’ll get the motivation to take action which is to wake up when the first alarm goes off. But this single action will end up solving numerous other issues that stem from one root cause.

When Motion Is More Important

We started this article by saying that whether you use action or motion really depends on the person and situation. In practice, sometimes motion that is what we need. It may not be obvious, but Covid-19 times are a great example of this.

We have all been experiencing something similar during the pandemic, but we get vastly different experiences and perceptions depending on whether we use action or motion. Notice how some people have gone through the motions, using the time to plan and strategize, and ultimately coming out less stressed, while others have attempted action in a time when restrictions make action nearly impossible.

Sometimes going through the motions is the best thing to do. If you’ve suffered something extremely sad or heartbreaking in your life, you will know that in the early days just getting up and brushing your teeth is a miracle. You feel like you will never feel happy again. That is the time for motion, for planning, for considering, not for action.

People often phone me to ask if coaching would be right for them, and sometimes I tell them that right now they need a friend, someone to listen, not a coach. When life is really tough, unexplainable, or out of control, the last thing you want or need is action.

When to Use Motion and Action Together

Most situations call for both motion and action. Imagine that you are unhappy in your job and want to find another. For this to happen, you’ll have to start with motion. You’ll need to plan what kind of jobs you want to apply for and spend a great deal of time considering what skills you have that will allow you to enter a new career.

Once this is done, you’ll need to bring in action. This is when you’ll build more skills (if necessary), apply for jobs, and go to interviews. You may even find that you have to return to motion if your actions aren’t getting you the results you need.


Sometimes, simply getting started and doing something is what is needed. This is motion. Once you get moving and find some motivation, then you can move on to creating specific actions that will lead you to success.

If you add action to the right motions, you then get the results you want. Even if you didn’t get the job or the contract by applying the correct action, you are able to learn from the experience and grow. Motion and action can work together if used correctly.

Final Thoughts

Motion and action will always be best if they work in partnership with each other. When doing this, monitoring the quality of the results is imperative so that no matter what, you are propelled forward. Everything must move, otherwise it stagnates. Don’t be a stagnant pond; be the free flowing river always moving toward the successes you want in life.

More Tips on Turning Motion Into Action

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com


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