Thought for the Week: To Do or Not To Do

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” Dietrich Bonhöffer

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Thinking about finishing an article to sell to a major magazine. Thinking about finishing a book I’ve been working on for a gazillion years. Thinking about losing some more weight. Thinking about doing all kinds of things. The truth of the matter is, I’ve been “thinking about” doing a lot of things for a long time which means, by definition, that I have not yet done any of them. Why?

There’s an old saying that “Everybody wants to have written a book, but nobody wants to write Thinking about it is much easier than doing it
one.” For me this captures the issue. The barrier between thinking about doing something and actually doing it is often the fact that, once I start doing it, I’m accountable for getting it done. As long as I’m just thinking about it, nobody is looking at my work, expecting results, or kibitzing on the quality. I can happily go along thinking about doing things and imagining grand results. As long as I don’t actually DO anything, I don’t have to worry that the results may not be so grand after all.

Of course, it may just be that I’m lazy. Maybe I’m not doing the things that I need and want to do because I really don’t want to get off my butt and do the necessary work. Once commitments are made to actually deliver results, I’m going to have to get off the iPad, stop playing Angry Birds and actually produce. That’s “work” and isn’t nearly as much fun as fantasy.

On the other hand, it might not be laziness at all. It might actually be fear. Fear that if we do the things we know we need to do, we might not be successful at them. Fear that, even if we are able to complete the objective, the results won’t be nearly as grand as we imagined them. Fear that we aren’t worthy of accomplishing what we’ve set out to do. Or fear that, once we’ve done them, we will have lost one of our personal aspirations.

Which brings us back to accountability. If you are stuck not doing something that you know you need to do, the first step is to accept the responsibility of doing it. Or, accept the responsibility of NOT doing it and drop it from your list. Either way, until we decide that the accountability is ours, the task will remain a thought and bring neither satisfaction nor closure.


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