Are You an Activationist or a Passivationist?

"Have you finished writing your book yet?"

The question was innocent enough. And logical.

Because five or six years earlier, the man, a professor, had talked about his desire to write a book about a controversial personality from a couple of decades ago.

His ideas for the book were "alive" and "fascinating." He knew what he wanted to say. And he had the energy and skill to say it.

The rewards were great: prestige, inner satisfaction, and money.

So when David J. Schwartz (as he relates in his book The Magic of Thinking Big) innocently asked the above question of the professor, instead of positive thoughts and good news, it opened up an old wound.

"No, the book hasn't been written."

It seems the professor had been "too busy." He had other responsibilities and just couldn't get to it.

As it turns out, the professor had let negative thoughts enter his mind. Instead of visualizing all the reasons the project would succeed and be worthwhile, he visualized all the reasons it would fail.

His core idea was great. But great ideas alone are not enough. Ideas only have value when they are acted on.

Schwartz talks about how people fall into two classes: the "activationists" and the "passivationists."

Mr. Activationist is a doer. He gets things done. He follows through on ideas and plans.

Mr. Passivationist is the direct opposite. He is a "don'ter." He fails to start things and postpones things.

Mr. Activationist plans and takes a vacation. Mr. Passivationist plans a vacation and then postpones it.

Mr. Activationist drops a note to someone to congratulate him or her on a job well done. Mr. Passivationist finds reasons to never write the note.

Mr. Activationist goes into business for himself. Mr. Passivationist wants to, but always comes up with a good reason why he can't.

As Schwartz writes …

"Mr. Activationist does. Mr. Passivationist is going to do, but doesn't."

Schwartz points out that the saddest words are "it might have been." "Had I done this or had I done that, I would have been rich, happy, retired, or whatever by now."

He points out that the magic word of success is "now." Not tomorrow or next week or later or sometime or someday – but "now."

Good things happen when instead of, "I'll start someday," you say, "I'll start now," – and you follow through.

Schwartz lists eight things you can do to grow your "action habit":

  1. Be an activationist. Be someone who does things. Be a doer, not a don'ter.
  2. Don't wait until conditions are perfect. They never will be. Expect obstacles and difficulties, and solve them as they arise.
  3. Remember, ideas alone won't bring success. Ideas have value only when you act upon them.
  4. Use action to cure fear and gain confidence. Do what you fear, and your fear disappears. Just try it and see.
  5. Start your mental engine mechanically. Don't wait for the spirit to move you. Take action, dig in, and you move the spirit.
  6. Think in terms of now. Tomorrow, next week, later, and similar words are synonymous with the failure word never. Be an "I'm starting right now" kind of person.
  7. Get down to business – pronto. Don't waste time getting ready to act. Start acting instead.
  8. Seize the initiative. Be a crusader. Pick up the ball and run. Be a volunteer. Show that you have the ability and ambition to do.

Do you have any things you do that help you take action? What good things have happened to you when you finally decided to take action? Please share your thoughts below.

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Published: September 21, 2012

5 Responses to “Are You an Activationist or a Passivationist?”

  1. Thank you for contributing this post and I would like you to know that I really enjoyed reading it.

    Although I appreciate your point of view, you tend to view the nature of reality in terms of black versus white.

    Actually, the nature of reality is a many-spendoured thing: it includes hues, shades and colours.

    Thus, nobody is a "winner" or a "loser." Most people would fall into the in-between category and are in a process of change and are still learning the ropes.

    Human personality is complicated and cannot be put into a straitjacket.

    Archan Mehta

  2. Hi John, Thanks for call to action. I'm wanting to move into copywriting fulltime, so I know how easy it can be give yourself the easy excuse road. I'm using a little reverse psychology on myself and made a poster entitled "It's alright not to take action" in big letters. Then underneath I've put the words "but if you do think what you will be rewarded with" and listed all my reasons to succeed. This might not work for anyone else, but works for me. Thanks again.


  3. I have been, and still am a life long activationist. There are only 2 things that you need in order to survive as an activationist. 1. You need to comit yourself to life long learning (I am not talking about post secondary education). 2. The only standard that you need to measure your success, is did you do your best in every thing that you do. Activationism has two killers. 1.Un-realistic goals 2.Debt. I have developed and patented 3 inventions, written 1 book just to mention a few things. I have not atained wordly fame or fortune, but as I lok back I have no regrets, because I did things and I can always say that I did my best.


  4. This was an inspirational letter for me to read. Not only was I encouraged that I was doing the write thing day to day conquering goals I needed to conquer and going forth to do so as I needed to. I hadn't bitten off more than I could chew by getting the work done one day at a time in successive days and weeks since I started studying with American Writer's and Artist's Inc. and Barefoot Writer's Club.

    Guest (Deborah Jo Woodward)

  5. This was a great post. Unfortunately I am not a "doer". I know what I have to do, but I am my worst enemy. I fear that my lack of many things will lead me right down the road to failure. I have all the plans in my head, but don't act on any, which makes me feel like I failed before I even took the test!!


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