Why the same action steps produce different results

Oct 07, 2017 · 5 min read

Have you ever tried to follow step-by-step instructions to notice that the steps didn't produce the results you were promised? And when you ask about it, you were told that you just didn't want it enough, or didn't really take every step. It's you, not the instructions.

That is quite enough to send to you self blaming and depression, thinking you just should quit right now. If this didn't work, why would anything else?

However, not all steps apply in all the situations. You might not be able to take certain steps, or have to modify them to meet restrictions. This isn't some sort of an excuse, or doesn't mean you shouldn't try. It just means you needn't to be upset if all the instructions and well meaning advice don't exactly relate to your situation. I have listed here some reasons why some steps may not cover your unique situation.

Locale

A step-by-step guide for starting a profitable business may not apply in your locale. In different countries, there are different ways to start businesses, and all the different types of businesses. Taxes differ, laws differ, business registration fees differ, permits differ, social security payments and insurances differ. Even things like freelancing can mean different things in different countries.

Various laws and ordinances can restrict, or at least modify, steps. A guide made in and for Germany isn't exactly applicable in and for Canada, or even a fellow European Union country. The local codes make bigger or smaller differences to how meticulously you can follow instructions.

Besides, it can be hard to realise, but when it's yesterday in your locale, it is the next day in another. This can have a huge impact on how well the steps work, depending on some of the reasons I explain later.

Culture and languages

We have all sorts of cultures all over this planet. Not only defined by our countries or languages, but also very narrow local differences. Finland is a pretty big country with small population. The behaviour of Finns can be unalike depending on which part of the country they are from. We don't only have various customs and habits, but also there are varieties in our Finnish language.

Culture and languages can change the results of steps very fast. If your instruction expects using English as a language, trying to translate it in Japanese isn't as straightforward as you might hope. On the other hand, while in your culture the certain type of behaviour is common and welcomed, it can be a huge "NO" in another culture.

Take back to the example of Finns, who are (depending on localities and your family background) taught by our culture that talking about successes is a taboo. This is because of an old belief that mentioning someone's good luck brings them bad luck.

Why the same action steps produce different results -- Mervi Emilia

Health, physicality, and access

Access to all the resources or methods in the step-by-step instructions can be restricted or very difficult for you. Or you may have to modify steps for several reasons.

Most step-by-step guides I have seen appear to assume you can see, hear, walk, talk and use their hands without issues. Also they assume you don't have any cognitive problems, such as with memory, communications, behaviour, learning, problem solving, social cognition, or other. Depression and anxieties can keep you from doing some things. In case networking sends you to days or weeks long recovery, taking the next step after it might not be immediately possible. Smallest things can make huge differences.

Having these "issues" don't mean you don't want or deserve something as much as the next person. They just can make a step or many in the instructions difficult, if not impossible. Accessibility is easy to forget. Not only by those who are completely "able", but also by those who have their own disabilities. Which is why instructions and steps don't take into account your personal health and physical restrictions or differences.

Timing

Starting a blog was very different in 2001 than in 2017. The tech has developed, there are multiple platforms and systems to use (back then we often coded our own blogging systems), there's all the spam, and much more blogs and other websites out there. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest didn't exist. Wordpress wasn't released until 2003. Search engines were much simpler, and quite easy to manipulate to do what you wanted. Basically, the Internet in 2001 was less noisy and far "smaller" than it is today.

You don't have to even have 16 years in between. The steps can have go different way due to the timing, even within the same day. Tech develops fast. Platforms and services come and go, and change the way they work. Someone sneezes, and the economy changes. The weather changes. Local time is different (which takes us back to locale). The political mood is different now than it was a year ago. Laws and ordinances have changed, you could get in trouble today of something that wasn't a big deal yesterday.

You have a minimal control over the timing. I mean, yes, you can try and wait until the timing is perfect. But mostly, you just gotta take a plunge and hope the timing is right. That's the way the biggest successes really have happened before and will happen. Unless you have special magical powers and can see the future.

Random and uncontrolled

The way the world is, is random.

Random things happen. The most predictions go wrong, the ones happening to be right just happened to be right. You can call it luck, but if calling it luck is scary for you, you can call it random. You have much less control over stuff than you often think or hope. Other people do things you cannot control. The world, the universe throws things at you that you cannot control. You can only control how you handle those things. If you are around to handle them, that is.

All kinds of things happen. Hurricanes. Accidents. Sickness. Good fortune. Failing tech. Family emergencies. Unemployment. Getting a new job. Meteorite or asteroid, which destroys everything. Look, anything can happen! Smaller and bigger random uncontrollable and unpredictable things have a great way to derail the best laid plans. It happens. Shit happens.

Then what?

For every one success, there are many failures and missteps. That's okay. Failing isn't something to be afraid of.

So, the action steps didn't work for you. It wasn't because you didn't want it enough or weren't ready to handle the success. This doesn't mean you should throw the towel in and say "that's it". I mean, yeah, in some cases you may realise that there was no point in keeping doing something you were doing. Not all the struggle is worth it. But that's a whole nother matter.

Step-by-step guides only work if they take into account the fact that not all steps can be applied and the results are not guaranteed. Sometimes the results can be something completely different. Which is to say, even when the results are different, they can be good. Even though step-by-step instructions don't always apply to your situation, you can use them as a template to design your own steps.

If the results are different than expected, take a note what changed and why. Try to follow the steps back to see where they went the different way. Analyse the differences and learn from them. Try again, test different situations and change something. Adjust. Test again.

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