We can daydream about what we wish to do. We can impulsively act without forethought. Focused vision paired with action can change lives. I could have written the three previous sentences and the intent of today’s blog post would have been fulfilled. However, I’m someone who likes to go into a little bit of detail to give people their money’s worth.
Wiser people than me have said that if we wish to know our true nature, look at our daily actions. It’s easy to talk and write about our hopes and dreams; but our actual actions define and delineate us. In other words, flowery speech may hold etherial promise, but action is what actually counts.
Successful people from Thomas Jefferson to Michelangelo have stressed the value of action over empty promises. Self-help books and blogs repeatedly tell us that successful people keep focused on their goals regardless of what goes on around them. They take real necessary steps to bring them closer to the fulfillment of their self-defined purpose. Such people have learned to disregard other distractions that dangle in front of them. They enhance action with a sense of urgency to further motivate themselves.
“I like to encourage people to realize that any action is a good action if it’s proactive and there is positive intent behind it.”–actor, Michael J. Fox
In every personal and professional life, we face advantagious and disadvantagious times. Much of the time, we have no control over when these occur due to the intents of other people or the whims of Mother Nature. We do have a fair measure of control over our emotional reactions to events; how we adapt to changing circumstances; how we take care of ourselves; and how we take action. Again, this is not new information–successful people since antiquity have understood this.
Another major consideration we can borrow from the ancients is the concept of “morally correct action”. This is an important aspect in the process of “considered action”. Many spiritual traditions teach a version of this advice. In Buddhism, for example, the Second Factor of the “Noble Eightfold Path” has the virtue of “Right Action”. It is expressed as abstentions in terms of physical action. This includes not killing living beings, not stealing, abstaining from sexual misconduct. This is closely related to another aspect known as “Right Speech”–not lying, not using divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, and abstaining from gossip and idle chit chat. These two aspects are tied to each other because each of them involves action and behavior.
One need not belong to Buddhism nor any other belief system to follow these principles. They are basic philosophical, ethical guidelines that can be proven by simple practice. When ethics are taken into serious consideration, the resulting actions will have greater merit. In this way, we are less prone to confusing motion with effective action. We are also reminded that everything we do has a series of consequences. Sometimes we need time to fully understand the consequences of our actions. When we mindfully consider these aspects without unduly using them as excuses to procrastinate, we’re on the right path.
To paraphrase Napoleon Bonaparte, we must take time to analyze, deliberate, and strategize. However, when the time to act has arrived, stop dithering and unwaveringly procede.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 13th-14th century mystic, theologian, and philosopher, Meister Eckhart. “What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.”