A new leader walks into his office one day and with a hammer and a screwdriver removes the hinges from off of his door, takes the door and removes it. Then casually sits down at his computer and starts his day. This would be considered a symbolic act. An act intended by its very nature to convey far more meaning then any words could do. This message would be that of an open door policy. Meant to drive home the point in decisive fashion. The symbolic act is based on the premise that actions, more than words, carry meaning.
Symbolic acts can take on a lot of meaning for more than just an intended audience. They can take on meaning for your own self as well. When you commit an overt act you send a message also to yourself. I am not playing around, I am going to take this really seriously, so much so that I am going to perform this symbolic act. The more audacious, bold and borderline ridiculous the act is, the more your mind will wake up to the fact that you are serious about acting upon your commitments.
You could wake up early, like 4:30am or something like that and get started on you day. That would be an act that your mind and body would have to reckon with. However, a symbolic act might be to wake up at 4:30am and immediately jump into an ice cold shower. Now that would be a symbolic act. Your mind and body would be saying, holy BLEEP, this person is not messing around about this getting up early thing! A symbolic act is more than just doing a thing, it is doing the thing and throwing an action behind it that really gets attention.