How To Use Action Research To Drive Personal Success

The Author

E. Alana James

E. Alana James

Dr E Alana James is reinventing herself again! Coming full circle to the first love of her life - art - and bringing back to her images all the lessons of her life as author, researcher, academic and wife. Concerned mostly with the idea of images as vehicles for expression of the truth of our inner and outer life experience.

What blend of genetics and environment is responsible for a restless spirit? Something drives me, never satisfied with the status quo, always willing to jump in and tackle the next social reform. Without thinking I find myself working to redress inequities between the set of upper middle class white privileges I was born into and the world faced by so many of my friends and colleagues. I always feel ‘different than’ those around me, and therefore feel driven to work with and befriend those that are more different still from the norm.

Do these ideas speak to you? Is there some part of your spirit that is restless or have you felt sometimes unbearably ‘different than’ those around you? Do you wish to make a difference in the world? Then you need to be able to capitalize on your differences, bringing their gifts to bear on your unique goals for life. This article uses the three ideas of action research (don’t worry it won’t be academic) to ask all of us how we may use the differences we feel and experience to the benefit of ourselves and others.


A restless spirit is a gift, it keeps us learning, with the potential for a young and vibrant life. Start your discovery process with a reminiscence of your life journey – tracking the times in which you felt the most different from others and then what you learned from that. As an example, junior high school (13-15) were tough years for me as my height made me stand out and I was never interested in what the popular people thought was worth attention. This gave me the strength to slip away and do what I wanted, to stand up for myself when necessary. In high school these attributes converged with finding that other people who felt outcast were friendly, teaching me that there was always a welcoming smile to be found somewhere, as long as I was gentle and willing to be respectful. I still find that people who live at the edges of society (other immigrants like me for instance) have vitally interesting stories to tell.  What were your life lessons? How did they contribute to a baseline of how you approach life today?

Measurable Action

The second step is to track the actions you have taken and their relative success. Where to start? With those actions that lead to the goals you are wanting to accomplish today. As an example, my life goal now is to grow in my leadership in using the wisdom I have accumulated in my 50+ years to help people have more success in their personal and business lives. My greatest successes have been with action research – a simple process that can easily be applied to a huge range of desired outcomes. By writing on how to use action research in a variety of ways I am taking small steps aimed at both increasing the numbers of people who read what I write, and therefore the degree of influence I have in the world. This step is called measurable action – by that we look at where we have had success, where we want to go and we plot a course that builds on one to move towards the other.  As you register on this site, you increase my measurements of success and show me that there was something interesting here.

Writing articles are the actions that I am taking, noticing how many people read each, over what length of time, tracking how many follow the links from these articles to my website, and tracking the analytics of the traffic to my sites – all these are the measurements. Do you see how action and measurement need to be related from the beginning? How else are we to grow, if we cannot track what is successful and what is not?


The last step that keeps our success on track is to reflect. I set aside 30 minutes on Friday afternoons for reflection on the week. I probably should make it twice a week, because I find so much has gone on that I forget some details. I have a form that separates my notes into these three steps: discovery, measurable action, and reflection. I write about what I have done to advance both my ideas and my writing, I track my activities and notice the responses, finally I reflect on what has made the week what it has been, contributing to either my success or failure (and of course I have both). This regular reflection keeps me moving onward and upwards towards my vision of life.

What has been the benefit of my restless spirit and my dissatisfaction with the status quo of the home in which I grew up? I believe that all of us can continue to grow, to change and to make a difference in our world(s). These three steps: discovery, measurable action and reflection keep us all on track.