Action or Activity

Any hockey coach will tell you that successful hockey is about tendencies and unforeseeable events.  The method of achieving success is to try to create positive situations and to be prepared for a mistake by the opponent while avoiding careless mistakes yourself.  You do that by playing the system and working hard.  When something favorable arises, you act.

From a coaches standpoint, the trick is to distinguish the players who are working hard and productively, from those who are just looking busy.

Essentially that is the difference between action and activity. defines Activity:

  1. the state or quality of being active
  2. specific deed, action, function, or sphere of action: social activities
  3. work, especially in elementary grades at school, that involves direct experience by the student rather than textbook study,
  4. energetic activity; animation; liveliness
  5. a use of energy or force; an active movement or operation

Action is subtly different

  1. the process or state of acting or of being active: The machine is not in action now.
  2. something done or performed; act; deed.
  3. an act that one consciously wills and that may be characterized by physical or mental activity: a crisis that demands action instead of debate; hoping for constructive action by the landlord.
  4. actions, habitual or usual acts; conduct: He is responsible for his actions.
  5. energetic activity: a man of action.

Action is about results. Activity may precede results, but not all activity creates a result.

In your business, measure both.  Activity won’t pay the bills.  If you find that a given level of activity does not result in enough action, your activity program is not correct for your skills, temperament, or chosen market.  Adjust it.

If you are the coach, adopt Jacques Lemaire’s answer to a reporter’s question.

Reporter: “Why are the shifts only 45 seconds long?”

Lemaire: “Because if they are working hard, they will be tired and need to come off.  If they are not working hard, I will be tired of watching them and they will need to come off.”

Coaches need to know about and recognize activity, but they need to emphasize action.  The players need to notice the difference too.

In the same way, you cannot be an “investor” without measuring the performance.  Buying and selling stocks is activity, it is not necessarily the action of achieving your financial goals.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

One Comment on “Action or Activity

  1. This is very true Don! This is something I need to work on and adjust my activities from time to time. I appreciate you sharing. I love the quote from Lemaire!

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