#BlogElul 2: Act

#BlogElul Action is a very odd concept. We take action every day of our lives (at least, if we get out of bed), and yet it is something we often struggle with. Committing to a course of action can be both exhilarating and terrifying.

Google “action” and “fear” together and you’ll find countless pages teaching you how one can negate the other – it goes both ways. Most of their advice can be boiled down to the succinct statement by Peter Nivio Zarlenga:

Action Conquers Fear

Sometimes you’ll see it in the form made famous by David J. Schwartz:

Action Cures Fear

I think I prefer Zarlenga’s version – it sees fear as an adversary, rather than a disease.

Regardless of imagery, it is interesting to think about why and how people find it so difficult to take action. As you probably know, nowadays I call myself a Commitment Coach, because I have concluded that an inability to commit, either to a course of action or a person (including oneself!), is at the root of most of what ails us nowadays. People are so afraid of missing out on something, that they dither and waver between different courses of action, and never make a decision. As a result, they most definitely miss out on something – possibly everything.

In another variant of this issue, people do make a decision and set course for a goal they have set for themselves. But because they have not really committed, they find themselves paralysed and unable to take action. I know I have found myself in this situation many times, and I have had to dig deep to find out what the fear was that was keeping me from the action I said I wanted to take.

It’s easy to work towards an external goal – if you’ve signed up to take a course or a job, then you probably have somebody else telling you what kind of action to take. All you have to do is to follow directions and obey the rules, and you’ll get where you are going. It may be hard work, but it’s not hard to find the motivation to get a paper in on time, when there’s an external deadline.

But if you are self-employed, like I am, there is no boss counting your hours, no instructor threatening you with a bad grade if you don’t get your work in on time. You have to take action on your own, and that is the hardest part of all.

There’s a great TED talk by Tim Urban on the subject of procrastination, which covers a good part of the how of failure to take action. He doesn’t really get into the why, but as mentioned above, action conquers fear, but fear also conquers action.

Fears, like thieves in the night, don’t do so well once they are dragged out into the light of day. If you can ask yourself the right questions about the fears that are keeping you from action, you can quiet them sufficiently to get moving. And once you are in action, it will conquer fear.

This battle must be fought every day, but the good news is that it does get easier with practice, like most things.

How about you, are you taking the kind of massive action that will get you the life you want? Or are you letting fear steal it from you?

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