The Art of Taking Action: Quotes and Notes

Welcome to the fourth and final part of The Art of Taking Action series, in which I share a few other ideas from the book I found useful – from Krech and a few of the other contributors.

In part one I wrote about the central ideas in the book The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, by Gregg Kech, in part two we explored musician Shinichi Suzuki’s thoughts on procrastination and part three considered the stress of not getting things done.

This time, I’ve collected some more of the best ‘notes and quotes’ in a wee magazine for you – just click the link below to view it in your browser.

Read ‘The Art of Taking Action: Quotes and Notes

By the way, I first heard about Gregg Krech on my friend Greg Berg’s excellent podcast Life on Purpose, and today I found out that he’s returned to the show to record another fascinating conversation – both are essential listening for anyone who has found this series helpful.

If you don’t like the magazine format, read on below as usual!

1. Go Around the Anxiety


‘Ocho’ is a Buddhist term meaning ‘overcoming by going around.’ Krech says this can be a better approach than confronting our problems face on:

“We overcome our anxiety by going around it, not by destroying it or freeing ourselves from it. You don’t need to travel in a straight line. Water doesn’t travel in a straight line. Because of its flexibility it is impossible to contain it. Let us learn the art of ocho and live more like water.”

2. Be True to the Work

photo-1432821596592-e2c18b78144fAlso included in the book is an extract from Stephen Pressfield’s Do The Work. Pressfield talks about some of the common procrastination strategies, demonstrating the wiliness of the human brain when it comes to rationalising our own less than helpful actions:

  • we have the energy to spend hours immersed in the things we like doing but things we dislike even for a short while seems insurmountable
  • we spend energy and time exploring why we are avoiding a task, which only helps us continue to avoid taking action
  • we assume we need to feel like doing something before we do it
  • we do something else instead.

So how can we get past our minds and the tricks they play on us? Pressfield suggests that we need to understand who we really are and be willing to show the world that part of ourselves.

“We keep busy, convincing ourselves that we are productive and hard working. Our failure to do what is important is disguised as busyness….

Are you hiding behind the veil of busyness? If so, then show yourself. Come out into the light. Be true to the work that has been placed on your path.”

Pressfield suggests that the way to achieve this is to learn from the ideas of Morita Therapy and move yo’ ass:

“One of the central priniciples of Morita Therapy is that we have much more control over our body (actions) than our minds (thoughts, feelings). So a distinguishing element of Morita’s work is to put effort into getting the body to take action, rather than trying to manipulate our thoughts or feelings. Often, once the body is moving, there is a natural influence on our emotional state and our thoughts.”

3. Focus on the Effort

photo-1445251836269-d158eaa028a6Krech says:

“When outcomes become the main focus, we implicitly define success based on accomplishing something outside of our control… The alternative is to focus on the effort we make. Our effort is almost always controllable – an action, something we can do… If we’ve done everything we can do, and we’ve done it to the best of our ability… that can be the measure of our success.”

4. Ask “What do we have here?”

photo-1450849608880-6f787542c88aIn another essay Jarno Virtanen shares a good technique for getting started on a task that he learnt from a zen cook:

“One of the best ways to start something is to step back, look around, and say, “What do we have here?”

This puts you in touch with the reality of your situation. It shifts your attention from your feeling state (boredom, anxiety, confusion) to the concrete reality of the circumstances surrounding your work.”

5. Let Go of Likes and Dislikes

photo-1438755582627-221038b62986Krech suggests you should “learn to do what you don’t like.” Easier said than done, in my experience. Yet, apparently it is something we can learn. He quotes meditation teacher Eknath Easwaran:

“Nothing in life is more satisfying, more masterful, than to be able to change our likes and dislikes when we need to. In fact, anyone who has mastered this skill has mastered life, and anyone who has not learned to overcome likes and dislikes is a victim of life.”

6. Remind Yourself “I Get to Do This”

photo-1428604467652-115d9d71a7f1Kate Manahan recommends that “any time you begin to say “I should or “I have to”, try replacing it with “I get to.”

Sounds simple right? So simple, you might be tempted to discard it. But Manahan found it had a transformative effect on her.

“Using “I get to” allows me to see that my daily deeds are gifts. Life is burgeoning with opportunities to meet our human needs. In context, it is all a blessing. I finally get to see that.”

7. Don’t Rely on Excitement

photo-1429277096327-11ee3b761c93 (1)So you think you want more excitement in life? Krech begs to differ.

“Our excitement is related to how we think things will be once we’ve accomplished our goal. Unfortunately this excitement is often a blight which leaves us in ruins with unfinished projects, abandoned goals and even failed relationships. Excitement, which we seek and think of as pleasant, can also be the cause of great distress.”


“If anticipatory excitement moves us to action, the loss of excitement often prompts us to stop.”

Therefore, he suggest that it’s okay to enjoy the excitement we all feel at the beginning of a project, but we also need to be prepared for when that naturally tails off.

8. Slow Down – it might save the world

photo-1436367050586-7c605120bf73Environmental scientist Donella Meadows believed if we all just slowed down, it could literally help save the world.  The below quote is from a longer extract from The Art of Taking Action, which I highly recommend reading in full:

“Suppose we weren’t in such a hurry. We could take time to walk instead of drive, to sail instead of fly. To clean up our messes. To discuss our plans throughout the whole community before we send in bulldozers to make irreversible changes. To figure out how many fish the ocean can produce before boats race out to beat other boats to whatever fish are left.

Suppose we went at a slow enough pace not only to smell the flowers, but to feel our bodies, play with children, look openly without agenda or timetable into the face of loved ones. Suppose we stopped gulping fast food and started savoring slow food, grown, cooked, served and eaten with care. Suppose we took time each day to sit in silence.”

9. Embrace Both Sadness and Joy


I’ll leave you with these final words from Krech. I shared this quote on the Clear-Minded Creative Facebook page the first time I read the book last year, because I liked it so much.

“We have a great challenge to meet today. We have to acknowledge our sadness, but also acknowledge the joy, care and blessings of our life. We have to feel our pain but not be drowned by it. We have to take our sad and joyful heart with us and live our life and do what is important for us to do.

That’s asking a lot, isn’t it?

Yes, it is.”

[color-box]Art-of-Taking-Action-CoverI hope you enjoyed this final post in the series which was inspired by The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, by Gregg Kech.

You might want to read the other posts in this series:

  1. The Art of Taking Action
  2. The Truth About Putting Things Off Until Tomorrow
  3. The Stress of Not Getting Things Done


Photos courtesy of Unsplash (Creative Commons)

5 replies on “The Art of Taking Action: Quotes and Notes”

I came across this short comic during the week. It puts a different spin on what we are talking about here and quite frankly, I find it pretty confusing…

(Btw, find more comics of B. Patrick here:

Are we all just fooling ourselves into wanting things we don’t actually want? Do we believe in fairytales (like “I am an artist/writer/entrepreneur/whatever….”)? Do we think we want to live this glorious life and fulfill our deepest potential while actually all we want is to avoid as much problems as we can and stay out of trouble?

Is it, in other words, just our ego getting in the way? I find I get things done when I manage to make them “less important” (like do one drawing a day) instead of blowing them up (work on my “oeuvre”…) and I’ve noticed it is much easier to work on something when there is someone else involved instead of just me because that seems to act like a reality check. If it’s just me, I lose myself in thoughts and schemes and plans and thinking-about-it-all instead of actually doing something…


Hey Gilliom

I read a good book called ‘Overcoming Underearning’ in which the author says something similar to this cartoon, but with a bit more depth and empathy (not to criticise the cartoon, as it has a good message too!). She says if we aren’t making progress on what we ‘think’ we want, then there might be a conflict within us – that really what we want is safety and comfort – in which case we aren’t likely to achieve anything that involves risk, effort and growth.

I think daily drawing is great by the way. Crystal Moody shared this Paul Klee quote on her instagram the other day which I thought was great (although I had to read it a few times to get to grips with what it means):

“Everything depends on will and discipline. From discipline comes the whole work, from will the parts of the work. Will and ability are one, knowing neither power nor desire. The work is done then by starting with its parts, aiming by virtue of discipline for the whole.”


This was a great series Milo. Enkoyed it a lot and it inspired me once more to put things into a new perspective.

Especially the thought, that it is easier to command your body than your mind. Next time the urge to procrastinate (in a bad way) hits me I just stand up, walk around the block, or at least the table, and. start over.


Wonderful round up, Milo, and great comments left too. I’ve become a bit too willing not to work on projects outside of those in my day job, but I’ve also remembered that frittering away my own time in the belief that what I’m doing at work is ‘enough’ doesn’t necessarily fulfil me. This has been a great help in the quest to find a new balance 🙂


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