September 9    

Today's quotation:

People today distinguish between knowledge and action and pursue them separately, believing that one must know before one can act. . . .  They say they will wait 'til they truly know before putting their knowledge into practice.  Consequently, to the end of their lives, they will never act and also will never know.

Wang Yang-ming
Instructions for Practical Living

Today's Meditation:

Sometimes you've just got to do something.  There are things other than knowledge that help us to know when to act, especially our instinct and our feelings.  While none of these things is an infallible guide that can lead us to never make mistakes when acting, they all can help us to accomplish things in our lives that would forever be left undone if we were to wait until we had compete knowledge about something.

Personally, I'd rather my doctor didn't make that first incision before she or he knew what was wrong with me.  I'd rather not read a paper by a student who did no research on the topic.  But do doctors need to know everything possible about surgery before they remove tonsils or an appendix?  Does my student need to know everything about France before writing a paper about Paris?  Do I need to know absolutely everything about the English language before I start teaching it to someone who wants to learn it?

Acting is one of the most important elements of learning.  It's fine to gain knowledge through books and discussions, but the knowledge that we gain from actually doing something runs deeper and lasts longer.  If we refrain from acting, we stay just the same as we are-- we don't grow much at all, and we can doom ourselves to always wondering, "what if?"  If we keep telling ourselves that we'll act as soon as all the conditions are just right, then guess what?

I would much rather act and get things wrong than refrain from acting just to avoid taking a risk.  I know that there are times when I'm just not ready to act, and I know that patience is incredibly important to us, but I also know that sometimes it's very important to take a next step whether we feel we're completely ready or not-- sometimes we won't learn the next things we need to learn until we have acted, until we have put ourselves out there even if we're not completely sure of all the variables.

Questions to consider:

What are some of the variables that sometimes keep you from acting?

Why do so many of us tend to wait until everything's just right before we decide to do something?

What's the risk of taking no action, of doing nothing?  How might that affect our lives?

For further thought:

Conditions are never just right.  People who delay action until all factors are favorable do nothing.

William Feather

more thoughts and quotations on action



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