There are two basic kinds of actions. One is proaction, which puts you on the offensive and gives you a great deal of control over events. The other is reaction, which puts you on the defensive and relegates you to an inherent position of weakness.
An interesting way of looking at inaction is that it’s really just a negative form of action, a sort of black hole that sucks energy away from you much the same as the black holes of the universe pull matter into the deep recesses of their cosmic bowels. This is why inaction often yields consequences by default. If you wait for something, or someone, to act on you, you likely will be unable to control the consequences.
Homeostasis, a trait that all human beings possess to one extent or another is (in psychological terms) the tendency to live with existing conditions and avoid change. Which is ironic, because resistance to change defies both the laws of nature and the laws of the universe.
The earth, the universe, and life itself are in a perpetual state of change, and so, too, is secular life. Weather changes, laws change, the economy changes, the reigns of power change, technology changes, and, perhaps most significant of all, your age changes every second of your life. In addition, with the generation and dying of cells in our bodies, each of us is in a constant state of change physiologically, from birth to death.
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Homeostasis is the ultimate defense against taking action, which is why most people stubbornly resist change, particularly major change. Outwardly, of course, we fabricate excuses that attempt to justify why we aren’t able to take action just yet, the most common one being that “the time is not quite right.”
Someday, we insist, when all the pieces of our lives fit perfectly together, we’ll be in a better position to take action: change occupations, go back to college and get an engineering degree, start a business, work on that big project we’ve thought about for years, move to the city of our dreams, or begin writing the novel that we’ve always believed would be a best seller.
The self-delusion of trying to disguise procrastination as a responsible attitude that is just waiting for the “right” time brings to mind a fascinating essay titled The Station, wherein the unknown author metaphorically describes all of us as being on a mythical train of life, rolling relentlessly down the tracks toward the future.
As we travel on this train of life, we keep believing that just around the next bend we’re going to arrive at The Station, a beautiful little red station house that will signify the panacea moment when all the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle.
When we arrive at The Station, there will be a big crowd cheering, flags will be waving, bands will be playing, and that’s when all our troubles will vanish and we can finally take action.
There’s only one problem with this picture. It’s a fantasy – a pure fantasy – because the reality is that there is no station. It doesn’t exist! The perfect moment never quite arrives. There’s always one more piece of the puzzle that has to fall into place before we’re ready to take action.
The truth of the matter is that, with few exceptions, the best day to take action is today. You can make a sales call today. You can start working on that important project today. You can begin to pick up the pieces and start a new life today. The issue isn’t about today being the first day of the rest of your life; the real issue is that today could be the last day of the rest of your life.
When people cling to the excuse that the time isn’t quite right to move forward with a plan or change of one kind or another – particularly starting a business – it’s often because they get caught up in the “how” of the situation. No one is omniscient. No one can foresee every problem and know, in advance, how to resolve it.
The reality is that all start-ups are dysfunctional. What makes a person an entrepreneur is that he has the determination, perseverance, and resourcefulness to overcome the dysfunction of a new enterprise. Paul McCartney put it well when asked in an interview about how the Beatles got started. Said McCartney, “Nobody knows how to do it. You just start a band.”
I should also point out that people often fail to take action because they tend to confuse the word hard with impossible. It’s not impossible to change occupations right now; just hard. It’s not impossible to move to another city right now; just hard. It’s not impossible to start a new business right now; just hard.
Hard is the very thing that gives value to an objective. Everything worth accomplishing is hard. If you’re waiting for everything to be just right before taking action, you are in possession of a foolproof excuse for failure.
Don’t fear change; embrace it as one of the most exciting aspects of life. Think of action as an opportunity to make mistakes, mistakes that give you a front-row seat in the Theater of Learning.
Carlos Castaneda explained perfectly succinctly when he said, “A warrior lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting.”
Thinking is a good thing to do – but not nearly as good as action.[Ed. Note. Robert Ringer is a New York Times #1 bestselling author and host of the highly acclaimed Liberty Education Interview Series, which features interviews with top political, economic, and social leaders. His recently released work, The Entrepreneur: The Way Back for the U.S. Economy, shows the pathway back to prosperity paved by entrepreneurs. Ringer has appeared on numerous national talk shows and has been the subject of feature articles in such major publications as Time, People, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Barron’s, and The New York Times. To sign up for his e-letter, A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World, visit www.robertringer.com.