Action is the most important concept in understanding how to live
What an action is
I am partial with the idea that the best conceptual tools are the smallest units.
An action is not a basic unit because it still have parts. The relationship created by those parts is what we then interpret as an action.
To understand what an action is, we need to understand its parts.
The metaphysics of action
First of all, the word action corresponds to something we observe happens in the universe. It is something we can observe happening in other people but it is also something we can observe within ourselves. Most words we use in language act this way: they refer to a concept we form inside our head about something that happens in the universe. In short, an action is a conceptual tool to understand reality.
Now, any conceptual tool will also be based on what one believes to be the basic units of reality. Philosophers call the area of learning about these basic units “metaphysics”.
I personally am biased towards the metaphysical theory called metaphysical pluralism. It’s a perspective that says there are many basic units of reality, as opposed to just one (idealism) or two (dualism).
Anatomy of an action
In order for it to count as an action, there has to be an intention.
Intention is the desire made conscious and declared personally or publicly.
Intentions are statements about future states that one desires to be in.
One may create intentions about ACTIONS and ENDS.
Both serve their purposes.
Intentions about ENDS remind us what we really are going after, thus the standard for evaluating the effectiveness of our actions.
Intentions about ACTIONS, on the other hand, inform us of the system, the process, the daily practices, the habits that we need to manifest if we are to realize our ENDS.
There are many means towards your desired feeling.
The Feedback Loop
The Length of the Feedback Loop
The way I understand it, an intention is a good starting point for calculating the length of the action feedback loop.
There are actions where the loop is short because the time length from intention to the resulting state is shorter. On the other hand, there are actions that take long periods of time between intention to end.
To understand the difference between these two lengths, let’s try an example.
Let’s say that I set the intention to feel happy. I know how it feels to be happy because I felt it before. I have a desired state I want to be in again and now I’m setting an intention to get back to it.
While there is a single desired feeling (feeling happy), there are many means towards it. Some require a shorter time to commence, while others take longer.
For example, a short means I can use to feel happy is to buy myself chocolate. Almost immediately after eating the chocolate, the sugar reacts to my brain and brings me towards the result: feeling happy.
On the other hand, a means that will take a longer time period to bring me towards my desired state is finding myself a dog. The means require me to perform different actions, all of them containing their own feedback loops. For example, I need to decide what kind of dog I want to buy then I’ll have to look for a pet shop that sells the kind of dog I’m looking for then I’ll have to visit the shop and take a look at the dog, etc.
An action that contains a set of actions should have a different name. They’re called projects.
While projects are great because they tend to establish foundations where desired states are repeatedly experienced (i.e., I buy a dog once, I feel happy everyday I’m with the dog after), we can get all caught up with them that we forget about the smaller actions we can take every day that could actually bring us to our desired feeling states faster.
Eating good food.
Catching the sunset.
Playing with kids.
These are actions that require a smaller time frame to get us to feeling happy.
An ideal life is a life that contains days when you are working on a larger project that will make it possible for you to experience your desired feelings long-term, while at the same time, performing simple actions that connect you with your desired feelings today.
Aside from giving you instant gratification, the simple actions act as an insurance: if your larger project turns out to be a flop and you don’t experience the feelings you desire from it, you still have simpler actions and habits put in place to keep you grounded.
Why is it important
Repeated actions become habits.
Small, seemingly irrelevant habits, are the scaffolding for bigger projects like creative projects.