I’ve learned that the lunch invitations I receive are often in direct correlation to the challenges my clients are immediately facing. An urgent, challenging issue for my client, usually means an urgent lunch invitation for me.

Six months ago I received one of those “can we meet for lunch in the next few days” requests, followed almost immediately by “I will meet you wherever and whenever it works for you.” I sensed this must be a BIG urgent need.

Two days later we met, and my client shared that her team of eight people were feeling stuck, frustrated, and having a hard time meeting their numbers. The heat was on from their funder, and if they didn’t meet their numbers their pilot project was in danger of not getting renewed.  

Nothing moves people into immediate action quite like necessity. When the danger of NOT doing anything is strong, people are willing to try anything.

As I asked questions and listened, I thought there was great cause for hope. Her team was talented, they were just in a rut and feeling stuck.

My client was open and ready for change.

I developed a customized program to address their particular needs, get them excited again, and move them into immediate action.

In a few short sessions that focused on team communication and problem solving, they felt renewed hope, developed new ideas, followed up, and implemented several new initiatives. Within three months their numbers dramatically increased, their energy and enthusiasm returned, and yes, their funding got renewed.

This is the power of taking immediate action.

I recently read a fantastic book my Mel Robbins called The 5 Second Rule. I love the clarity and simplicity of her powerful message. In her words the 5 second rule is simply:

“The moment you have an instinct to act on a goal you must 5-4-3-2-1 and physically move or your brain will stop you.”

The book is based on extensive research, and includes lots of successful examples for why moving into immediate action is powerful. In my experience working with individual clients or corporate teams I’ve learned that nothing destroys goals and results like inaction. I feel so strongly that the tagline on my website (and even on my pens) is: “Talk is Good, Action Is Better.”

Yes, it is easier and more comfortable to not take action and keep doing what you have always done. And the biggest excuse—and by “excuse” I mean lie—is “it’s not a good time.”

It’s never a good time. Remember it’s your goal, and if you are not willing to take immediate action then I call BS.

Here are three tactics to help move you into immediate action:

Be Honest With Yourself

As Dan Sullivan famously says, “all progress begins with telling the truth.”

What is the real reason you are not taking action? If it’s fear, I totally get it—fear freezes most people. Be honest with yourself—is your goal something that you really want, or is it something you just like to say you want?

Is employee retention important to your company? How about developing a learning cultureThen it’s time to make a commitment to both. Show me it’s important, don’t tell me it’s important. Star employees leave when they feel there is no growth. Make a plan of action, identify the first step and take it.

In my experience, the only thing that scares people more than the prospect of failure is the prospect of success. Be 100% honest with yourself.

Take Immediate Action

That means right now, like stop reading this and take the first step. I will wait. Stop thinking about it and just do it.

Many years ago I was in an all day sales seminar with about 200 other people. Just before lunch, our instructor asked us if the group was up to a challenge. Most hands went up. He then said the challenge was to get at least 10 business cards from strangers on the street over the course of our lunch hour (and we weren’t allowed to get the cards of the people attending the seminar). He asked if everyone was clear on the challenge, then said…..off you go.

I made my way out of the room, having no idea how I was going to accomplish the task. I took a seat on a bench and spent 2 minutes to plot out a strategy. My strategy was:

  1. Don’t approach anyone who is alone (reducing the creep factor).
  2. Be honest and tell them why I was doing this.
  3. Ask for what I wanted, in this case their business card.

I got up and headed out of the conference center onto a busy downtown street. Lucky for me, it was lunch hour and there were lots of people out. Immediately, I spotted a group of four professional women on their lunch break, waiting to cross the street. Feeling a little nervous and unsure, I reminded myself that I only had 47 minutes left to complete the task (I so did not want to be the only one who didn’t succeed).

So I approached, was honest, and asked for their cards. Immediately two of the four started to reach into their purses, while the third mentioned that I should take a short walk with them to the restaurant, where they would be meeting thirty colleagues to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday.

Jackpot. I ended up getting 23 cards and had enough time to grab my own lunch.

If I had been given three days to accomplish the task, I would have retreated into “thinking” mode and missed a golden opportunity.

Define the Cost of Doing Nothing

If your goal is personal or professional, you have already made a decision that it is important to you. You likely already thought about the benefits of accomplishing your goal, but have you identified the cost of not taking action?

What are the risks of doing nothing? List them. For organizations and team leaders, the risks can be staggering—if you’re not adapting to shifts in the business landscape, you can be certain that your competitors will happily scoop up your market share.

One company I am very familiar with would host a semi-annual, week long meeting for their sales team. The agenda for each meeting was almost always the same, you know the drill: President’s Update, followed by reviews from each area of the country, followed by marketing updates, you get the idea. Having the same people give the same presentations yielded—yes, you guessed it—the same results (or declining results).

And this would go on for five days! Innovation, creativity, new strategies and follow up were dearly missing. Most meetings ended with everyone nursing new hangovers—what’s the ROI on that?

In the last six months this company has lost numerous key staff members and are struggling to fill the vacancies, while profits are declining and morale is at an all time low. It’s a steep price to pay for doing nothing new.

Far too often, I hear from clients and colleagues that they feel stuck—and yet without concrete steps to change their circumstances, they are certain to remain in their current state. If you’re feeling the effects of inaction, I challenge you to use the 5 second rule—in the moment that inspiration strikes, get up and take the first step toward achieving your goal.

One of my favorite quotes is by the great #99, Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

What are you holding back? It’s time to take your shot.