Bias for Action

By Sajila Abrar

Too often, when we watch a motivational video or read a book, we think we could have done it better. We criticize but rarely do we realize that the person who has done it actually took an action and materialized the ideas into something tangible. 

As Napoleon Hill writes, “the most mediocre idea acted upon is far more valuable than a flash of genius that resides only in your mind.”

What is Bias for Action?

Bias for action simply means “to take action that becomes your default mode”. Planning and thinking thoroughly is necessary but if you have planned excellently, thought through all pros and cons, discussed all the best and worst scenarios and if that planning file sits in your closet for eternity without execution, it is useless.

Bias for action makes you a ‘doer’ in the world that just speaks and plans. People with bias for action are quick in decision-making, and are programmed to ‘take action’. They do not just sit in air-conditioned rooms talking about helping the poor, they actually go and help”.

In order to be successful, you have to materialize your ideas and put them out there for the world to benefit. Nobody is interested in the graveyard of superb ideas that you carry everywhere with you. 

The Quran repeatedly recommends action. When Allah talks about faith (iman) he talks about amal-sauleha (good action) along with it. Your faith is not complete without any action. Let us see how Allah has recommended bias for action:

وَلِكُلٍّ وِجْهَةٌ هُوَ مُوَلِّيهَا ۖ فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ ۚ 

For each [religious following] is a direction towards which it faces. So race to [all that is] good. (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:148)

أُولَٰئِكَ يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَهُمْ لَهَا سَابِقُونَ – 

It is those who hasten to good deeds, and they outstrip [others] therein. 
(Surah Al-Mu’minun, 23:61)

وَسَارِعُوا إِلَىٰ مَغْفِرَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ أُعِدَّتْ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ –

And race swiftly with one another for forgiveness from your Lord and for a garden whose breadth is the heavens and the earth, prepared for the pious. (Surah Al-Imran, 3:133)

لَّا يَسْتَوِي الْقَاعِدُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ غَيْرُ أُولِي الضَّرَرِ وَالْمُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ ۚ فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ دَرَجَةً ۚ وَكُلًّا وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ وَفَضَّلَ اللَّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا – 

Not equal are those believers remaining [at home] – other than the disabled – and the mujahideen, [who strive and fight] in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred the mujahideen through their wealth and their lives over those who remain [behind], by degrees. And to both Allah has promised the best [reward]. But Allah has preferred the mujahideen over those who remain [behind] with a great reward. (Surah Al-Nisa, 4:95)

انفِرُوا خِفَافًا وَثِقَالًا وَجَاهِدُوا بِأَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

Go forth, whether light or heavy, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the cause of Allah. That is better for you, if you only knew. (Surah Al-Tawbah, 9:41)

Even when a meuzzin calls for prayer, he calls out for action:

ﺤﻲﻋﻠﻰﺍﻠﺼﻼﺓ (hasten towards salaah)

ﺤﻲﻋﻠﻰﺍﻠﻓﻼﺡ (hasten towards success)

In light of all of this, we cannot be lazy Muslims who sit around all day. How do we cultivate a will to take action in our lives? The following steps may help!

  1. Do not wait for perfection

Abdullah Bin Amr reported that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Convey from me, even if it is a single verse” (Saheeh Bukhari, Book 60, Hadith 128)

Do not wait until you understand the whole Quran to teach it forward. Even if you have understood one ayah, act upon it yourself, and teach it forward to others as well.

If you want to write, do not wait for that perfect piece to share with the world. 

Do not wait for perfection to give you the confidence to act. Be confident in your tasks, and do them consistently, and soon you will also have acquired perfection.

  1. Plan and act

I truly believe in planning but all planning and no action accounts to nothing. Long meetings, never-ending-discussions may hinder your progress because by the time you reach the point of performing the ‘action’, somebody out there may have already done it. Plan by all means, but make sure you act on your well thought-out plans. Any plan is only as good as the success of the actions it envisages.

  1. Set clues

Set clues that trigger action. You want to jog in the morning? Put your joggers next to your bed so that is the first thing you see when you wake up to motivate yourself to go out and jog. You want to pray Tahajjud? Set your alarm to wake up on time and do not snooze it!

You always wished to donate money? Put a sadaqah box on your bedside to remind you early in the morning to put money in it daily.

Don’t rely on others to remind you or motivate you. Take steps to remind yourself.

  1. Reduce distractions

Distractions may stop you from taking action. Try to eliminate them from your life in order to concentrate better.  To begin with, turn off your notifications or use the don’t disturb feature on your phone to stop your phone distracting you as you sit down to work. Cut down on excessively watching TV, or wasting time on being unproductive. Use focus techniques like Pomodoro to do actual work.

  1. Suppress negative thoughts

The human brain is programmed to relax and conserve energy by giving 101 reasons to not take action. That is why when it comes to action, we automatically start thinking about the risks and failures. Allah says in the Quran:

“When you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah. Certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust in Allah”

(Surah Al-Imran, 3:159)

Therefore, when you decide to do something, ask Allah for help and pull the trigger.

  1. Keep busy in what benefits you

Abu Hurairah reported, Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “A strong believer is better and dearer to Allah than a weak one, and both are good. Be keen on what benefits you and seek help from Allah, and do not give up.” (Bulugh al Maram, Book 16, Hadith 1569)

So keep yourself busy with actions that will benefit you and do not let Shaitan get you busy in what Allah dislikes e.g. wasting time. 

  1. Take baby steps

It is great to set a vision and mission for your life. Break them down to small steps for yourself to take each day. Every night, plan in your journal the actions for the next day and act upon them.

Remember! In the end, you will be judged by your actions. 

Dr. Allama Iqbal said:

عمل سے زندگی بنتی ہے جنت بھی جہنم بھی

یہ خاکی اپنی فطرت میں نہ نوری ہے نہ ناری ہے

By action life may become both paradise and hell;

This creature of dust in its nature is neither of light nor of fire.

(Bang-e-Dra-163) Tulu-e-Islam (طلوع اسلام) (The Rise of Islam)

Now stop reading and go take some action!

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