How Cheap, really, IS talk?

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Just DO It!?

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of the Creativity Series – all rights reserved

Talk is cheap. Words are plentiful.
Deeds are precious.
H Ross Perot


Get OVER Yourselves!

There are A LOT of reasons why that ubiquitous advice to “Just DO It” seldom really works, but they’re rarely considered when those “tough love” so-called motivators mount their high horses. 

It is a worse than lousy motivator unless it comes at exactly the right moment and for exactly the right reasons to exactly the right person.  

  • Impulsives won’t be helped by that kind of encouragement.
  • Individuals at a crossroad in their lives would benefit more from a bit of that cheap talk before they Just DO anything.
  • Teens, already too much under the influence of peer pressure, certainly don’t need that kind of message tossed out like a dare.

There are folks, I suppose, who need that little kick-in-the-butt flavor of encouragement, and rare times when almost all of us could probably use it.  Those particular words, however, are more likely to activate our resistance than inspire our action, especially those of us with a higher than average oppositional piece to our make-up.

The Just-DO-It mantra is dismissive.  It can be damaging, in fact, to both
self-esteem and self-efficacy. Life’s not much without action, but action is not ALL.  Only machines “Just DO It” without contemplation!

I’ll grant you that Just-DO-it! could be thought of as good advice when preparation meets inspiration — and all functional stoppers have been removed.

I can’t recall a single time, however, when I heard someone check for any of those items before cranking the Just-DO-It engine.

And BOY do I object to beginning any advice with the word “Just”  — as if we were all ninnies who couldn’t figure out what they consider obvious.


That cheap talk they attempt to discourage is actually what supports the first two words in the oft-heard phrase above. Cognitive-behaviorally, we READY ourselves when we gather information, and AIM ourselves when we sift through what we have learned and put it together in an egosyntonic fashion.

From Wiki: “Egosyntonic is a psychological term referring to behaviors, values, feelings that are in harmony with or acceptable to the needs and goals of the ego, or consistent with one’s ideal self-image.”

Said more simply: different strokes for different folks!
We would be well-advised, however, to investigate our particular flavor of folk
before we initiate the stroking.

Upping Talk’s Value

Taken together (in any number of combinations), innovators in the field of Psychology make a pretty darned strong case for NOT “Just DOing it.”

In The Language and Thought of the ChildJean Piaget underscores the role of language in the development of “perceptual intelligence” (juvenile minds can describe but not analyze).  He makes a clear distinction between the “chatter” of young children and the verbal processing of more mature minds solidifying thoughts through spoken language, effectively “analyzing out loud.”

Let’s leave behind Skinner  (Beyond Freedom and Dignity) and circle back to Pavlov ‘s thoughts on behaviorism and conditioned response, through the lens of what neuroscience has discovered about the effects of psychological priming on action (briefly, and focused linguistically, prior exposure to words of one type or category increases the likelihood that we will respond from a similar frame). 

Those guys seem to counter those “talk is cheap” proponents quite handily!

Adding in Milgram’s startling discoveries of what can happen when we succumb to the urgings of others to “Just-DO-it,” we get glimmers of understanding of the importance of “programming” ourselves to take the intended action: the one that will get us where we say we want to go.

  • In Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View  (referring to experiments beginning in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann), Stanley Milgram’s work seems to suggest that there might be a natural tendency in most people to prefer to abandon choice, decision and responsibility, willing to Just DO whatever they are told, even in the face of competing moral imperatives.
  • He postulates that only maintaining a conscious awareness of this tendency provides a mitigating effect.

Motivation for Action

In A Theory of Human Motivation, an early paper introducing  Abraham Maslow‘s ‘general-dynamics’ that evolved into his hierarchy of needs, Maslow indicates the value of consciously striving toward what he observes as our natural progression toward self-actualization.

Among other things, a self-actualized individual is aware of life as a series of choices toward or away from personal growth, opines he — which, to my way of thinking, necessitates a curiosity-driven exploration impossible in a don’t think, just DO-compliant individual.

As he says in this paper, “It is far easier to perceive and to criticize the aspects in motivation theory than to remedy them,” — and I offer no remedies here.

I would go so far as to suggest that any theory anyone might develop would have to start with dumping that “Just-DO-it” advice in the garbage, however.

UNTIL you have examined yourself, your abilities and your options, I believe that Just DOing is premature in a manner that is anti-actualization, not to mention a straight-jacket for creativity.

SpokenLanguageOur brains are designed to reality-test, testing for congruence with the items already stored away in those black boxes of our databanks. They are also designed to resolve anxiety-producing cognitive dissonance as rapidly as possible.

Kinda’ hard to be out-of-the-box creative, huh, when your brain is racing your mind to insist on something from inside your box?!

Spoken language – TALK! – slows down that “knee-jerk” impulse and allows us to reframe unrealistic expectations and rethink our reactions in a manner that  facilitates effective (and creative) decision-making.

Dialoguing, as I mentioned in a comment to the first creativity article, provides “fresh fodder” that changes our nutrient balance in beneficial ways.

(THAT, IMHO, is the value of discussions in the comment section, and why I’m BRIBING contribution – it works even better, sometimes, when we write it!)

Now, for the bad news

As coaching mentor (and coaching field founder), the late Thomas J. Leonard, was fond of saying,
“Information is the Booby Prize.”  

Although many coaches use that saying to discount the information-gathering phase as less important than the action phase, that is a misunderstanding of T’s intent: it takes action to actualize.  

All the creativity in the world languishes until ACTION calls it into being.

Without action, our creativity is no more useful than those brilliant inventions that never see the light of day until somebody else grabs the patent and manufactures the product.

Ultimately you really must jump out of the intellectual and into the physical if you expect to accomplish anything in your life, good, bad or indifferent.

I disagree, however, with those who believe that urging anyone to Just DO it! will encourage that jump!

What do YOU think?

Ring in with your thoughts and experience in the comments section below, and in new articles to come as this particular series unfolds. I really want to get a dialogue going that underscores and expands upon the POSITIVE effects of the ways that those of us with seemingly kludgy brains actually operate.

BIGTIME BRIBE:  I’m also in the process of developing the beta version of a “creativity seminar” of a very different [brain-based] sort.

EVERYONE who contributes his or her thoughts on the matter in the comments section of the posts in this series, helping me out as I run a few ideas up the flagpole, will be invited as my guestsand acknowledged as contributors to any course materials, eBooks or books I develop on this topic (in whatever manner you are comfortable), in addition to links to your content, for those of you with websites and blogs. [Click on Of Bribery and Labels for my thoughts about the value of bribery]

As always,
 if you want notification of new articles – in the upcoming Creativity Series, or any new posts in any category on this blog – give your name and email to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right.  (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too)  STRICT No Spam Policy

If you’d like some one-on-one (or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this article (either for your own life, that of a loved one, or as coaching skills development), click the E-me link  <—here (or on the menubar at the top of every page) and I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)


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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

4 Responses to How Cheap, really, IS talk?

  1. mrs fringe says:

    Great post. I’m going to have to think and reread for a bit before I respond. Clearly, I’m not from the school of “just do it.” 😉


    • A voracious reader anyway, designing a new curriculum for Brain-based Coaches & adding to “resources,”, I’ve been reading (and re-) A TON this past year.

      Most recent includes basic psych thought leaders, which got me thinking in the direction of the apparent dichotomy between doing, deciding and deliberating – and how to resolve “creatively” in a manner that moves life forward. Thus this post.

      I know YOU know how much easier it is to be creative in community, and how difficult in isolation — so I’m looking forward to YOUR thoughts on this whenever you get to the DO-ing edge, ready to jump.

      READERS (especially female): CLICK her name – I’ve linked a few of her posts to stuff here, but there are GREAT conversations over there (one of my favs recently is entitled, “And, Have an Orgasm!” if that gives you a sense of the creativity over there — btw, it’s not about sex)




  2. Lisa Stallings says:

    There have been times when I’ve been standing on the edge of lake (or some other situation) and I want to dive and the water’s cold and my beloved sister says “Just do it!” and I do. And I’m grateful; I needed that little extra oomph to get me in the water where i wanted to be. But the thing is she said it with joy and without judgement- just let go….and fly! She was totally on my side. She was being a really good coach. So I’m coming down on the side that “just do it” is great in the right situation–And I see your point it is really $%#@ed how it’s usually used.


    • Ah yes, great in the right situation to the right person (or maybe even FROM the right person?) – as you point out so well, your beloved sister was encouraging you to “Just DO” something she knew you well enough to know you really wanted to do, that would add to your experience of being truly alive in YOUR world!!

      You hinted at another factor that I’m glad you added — NO judgment and an underlayment of joy.

      We could all “Just Do” a bit more Joy, huh? (and even then, it is important to be sensitive to the timing of our comments in that regard) — which leads right into the lack of judgment you mention. There was no implied “should” to her “Do it”

      My quarrel with ANTHING that becomes something we say, accepting without examination, is that it usually reinforces the boxes we need to escape to liberate our creativity.

      Great comment – thanks for ringing in!


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