Action Filter - Acting Intelligently

Action Filter – Acting Intelligently

Do you take action when a problem occurs, or don’t move until you are forced to? The action filter describes how much urgency or energy you feel to make changes. On the other hand, it describes how much reflection you give to a situation.



Many in NLP (and business) have interpreted action to be the opposite of reflection – an either/or proposition. Reflection is a kind of action. Thinking takes up 20% of our energy, so it can’t be an opposite. If it were, when you were not thinking, you would be acting and when you were not acting you would be thinking.

There is differing opinions on the consequences of this Meta program because of this confusion. In my humble opinion, it has also contributed to a polarizing of academia and business.

The Action Reflection Matrix

In my experience there are two forces operating here to form a matrix rather than a scale of opposites.

action filter matrix

Active/Inactive Axis

Active and inactive refer to the amount of stress and activation (or parasympathetic, sympathetic nervous system activity). The active/inactive axis has the fight/flight response at one end and the resting response at the other.

Reflective/Non Reflective Axis

Reflection is our higher thinking capacity, to observe interactions – being able to stand back (dissociation). Non-reflection is the opposite – an absence of thought, which isn’t the same as active. Dissociation doesn’t make you passive

Proactive Action Filter – Action and Reflection

The proactive filter combines action and reflection. This is Steven Covey’s concept of proactive. This combination is ideal in complex environments. Auditory digital and taking notice of feedback before acting or continuing is strongly developed.

Reactive Action Filter – Action Without Reflection

The reactive filter combines action with non reflection or internal dialogue. At its best, this is ideal in sports and performances, as well as emergencies where instincts are required. They take initiative, and are willing to jump in and have a go, without the need to analyze it to death first. They see what they want and go for it.

Inactive Action Filter – the Non-Reflective Inactive Quadrant

The inactive filter combines an absence of reflection and activity. This combination ideally occurs in a meditative state. At an extreme, it could also be catatonia – not so good.

The parasympathetic nervous system creates a dampening effect. Your heart rate slows down. Digestion happens and breathing deepens. We process information.

Reflective Action Filter – Reflecting without Acting

The reflective filter combines reflection with inaction. Thinking before making risky decisions is an important part of success. You can’t build a very stable or comfortable house without a well-considered blue print. Considering consequences and being able to delay gratification for a bigger reward is part of growing up and becoming an effective adult.

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