Leadership Lab

Self-development: The action of inaction

In the pursuit of self-development, we often find ourselves at the crossroads of familiarity and change, grappling with the inertia that hinders our progress. How do we navigate this intricate terrain of personal growth, where the allure of comfort competes with the necessity of transformation? Self-development beckons us to confront the aspects of ourselves that crave improvement, yet it also demands introspection and vulnerability. What drives us to resist change, even when we acknowledge its potential benefits? 

Nothing changes if nothing changes. If we keep on taking the same road, how can our destination be different? Logical, but one we are experts at ignoring, especially in matters of self-development. 

Understandable, because self-development implies there is a part of us that can do with development, a part of us that is faulty. Not everyone can be vulnerable to think this way, but if we can, then congratulations are in order. For all of us can do with some self-development and accepting this is a major win. 

Self-development will require changes in our life. Some changes come easy to us and others can be quite challenging. For an introvert, learning the skill of public speaking can feel like a herculean task, but becoming more self-aware may be easier.

What makes change difficult? At its core, the concept is one of pain and pleasure. The anticipated pleasure from the required action is not strong enough to overcome the anticipated pain.

In the case of the introvert, the anticipated pain (fear) of speaking in public is more that the anticipated pleasure from public speaking. This reveals itself in the form of procrastination, finding excuses on why certain actions could not be performed, etc.



How do we confront the paradox of recognizing the need for change, yet encountering inertia when it comes to taking decisive action? Can you elaborate on the psychological barriers that impede our ability to bridge the gap between intention and execution, particularly in the realm of personal growth and self-improvement? These questions underscore the intricate interplay between pain and pleasure, anticipation and reluctance, shaping our journey towards self-improvement..

We recognise the desire for a change in our life, do the research, devise a strategy, and then… it never takes off. Inertia takes hold. We trip ourselves up at the execution stage.

This is often the stumbling block. We come to the edge but find ourselves unable to take the jump. 


The action of inaction!

Our brains are wired to protect us, wired to give more weight to pain than pleasure. Which makes it easier to avoid action when pain is associated with it. Recall the new year resolutions that we keep repeating year after year. The fatty food that we are unable to give up even though we know how bad they are. 

Here are some simple steps we can take to make the change easier:


Overcoming Inertia

Overcoming inertia takes high energy. Once the motion starts, it is easier to remain in motion. Change in our lives is no different. Overcoming inertia is a huge roadblock.

We need to recognise the reality is more likely to be that the actual pain from the change will be less than anticipated; and the actual pleasure will be more than anticipated.

We function out of habit. Research suggests we make 35,000 decisions a day, or about one decision every two seconds. This is possible because the brain works out of habit. Learning how to drive takes a lot of our attention and energy, but once driving becomes a routine, it goes into our subconscious and frees up our energy and attention for other tasks. 

Our life follows a pattern and much of these patterns operate from the subconscious. Changing these patterns is met with resistance from our brain. The brain says – ‘we have survived so far, why the change, why the uncertainty?’

Especially true for the high achievers. After all, what high achievers have accomplished is a testimony that their strategy works. The question they are asking is – why change now?

Why indeed!

Knowing our why is an important motivator. Why do we want an MBA? Why learn Spanish? Why relocate to a new city? Why a new job? We must dig deep to know the core reason. One method is to ask the ‘5 Why’ question. For instance:

  • Why the MBA? To gain more skills
  • Why? To get a better paying job.
  • Why? To educate our children in a private school.
  • Why? So they get a better opportunity at life than us.
  1. Why? To feel good about ourselves.


Keeping the Momentum

We deserve a pat on the back for moving from inaction to action. Now we have to keep the momentum to see the change we desire. There are some practices we can follow to tackle the potential roadblocks.

  1. Accountability partner:: Adopting an accountability partner keeps us moving. Our run buddy reminds us of tomorrow’s run, calls us if we fail to turn up, and we feel honour bound to meet our commitment. Similarly, an accountability partner supports us in our quest for self-development and in avoiding a relapse into the inaction mode. We just need to exercise care while selecting one.
  2. Investment: Having a skin in the game helps in our commitment. How often would we get up for a free yoga class? How seriously will we take a free upskilling webinar? For many of us, a financial investment, even a small one, is motivation enough. What investment are we making into the change we want in our life? As the saying goes – ‘put your money where your mouth is.’
  3. Sustainable: Keeping a sustainable pace. This sounds simple, but it is not uncommon for us to get carried away. Perhaps we see a challenge in the change, or the benefits of the change are already visible and exciting. As long as we do not lose focus on what is most important to us – be it a job, relationship or health.



In conclusion, self-development is a laudable objective. It takes courage to recognise that we are not perfect and that change has to begin from us. If we want a different outcome then we must also change, in thought and behaviour.  There are two main challenges we face – overcoming the initial inertia of taking actions and to keep up the momentum. Consistency is the key to progress.

This journey enriches our life and those around us. That in itself makes this a worthwhile effort.       


About the author:

Sandeep is a professionally certified coach, a chartered accountant, and a CPA. He is passionate about helping people live a meaningful and fulfilled life focusing on high achievers with his 8-week programme – Explore, Evolve & Emerge.