When is it right to go into action?

This was the great question that our artist friend, Alastair Duncan, posed for our lunchtime conversation for #FirstFridays this week. ‘When is it right to go into action?’

It was fascinating to see that as we chewed on it – metaphorically speaking – everyone had a slightly different take.

Why am I not surprised? It’s only when we give ourselves and others the space to think, talk and be heard that the richer colours emerge.

So, it all depends…

It depends where we are starting from. And what the intended outcome might be. What difference would it make and to whom?

And what’s behind the question? Why are we asking in the first place and maybe who are we asking?

What made the conversation even more interesting was that Alastair wasn’t there! He’d offered the question as a self-proclaimed Quiet Disruptor, knowing that he might not be able to join us.

So the conversation had a much more generative quality. This wasn’t about trying to give Alastair an answer, but using it as a mirror to explore our own perspectives. It was real – we all have these questions about action.

Wisely, he had also offered some additional commentary…

“Facing up to our fears”

‘We say about “facing up to our fears”, doubts and challenges, but how do we know when the right and best time is to do this?’

Is this really about facing up to what’s stopping us? As Quiet Disruptors, there may be a number of distinctive issues…

For some of us, it may be a lack of confidence. We want to be more certain that we’re not going to fail before we take action. This may be because there is less of us ‘out there’, we’re more inside our own heads. So to take action is a much bigger step and means revealing more. And that feels particularly vulnerable.

However, we may also be more attuned to reading the wider system signals. ‘Knowing’ that it’s not ready or the right time to take action. And to push through would be premature.

Again, there is no single, simple answer.

But sometimes we need to actively discard our fears and doubts to intentionally explore beyond our limits. To put ourselves in the place of learning by doing, rather than having it all sorted out beforehand.

For me personally, writing the daily post and doing the illustrations is exactly that! The action is the learning. The writing is the exploration. Putting it out there like this invites engagement as it isn’t the definitive article.

“Think before you act”

Alastair’s second comment prompted even more discussion. ‘We also say “think before you act”, but for how long? How can we identify when we have done enough thinking and it is time to act?’

Great question. And again, it depends…

The value of thinking before action was a given. But what kind of thinking and whether it involves others, was not.

There was an interesting general preference for trusting our own intuition. Both in whether to take advice on board and the timing of decisions. This expression of self-assurance (as distinct from self-confidence) was heartening and demonstrated an inner resilience.

The difference in personality preference was also evident. For example, those who appreciated a framework for taking action, where plans were formed ahead of time. Contrasting with those who were up for action, but didn’t want to decide until the last minute. Motivated by the fear of missing the best opportunity.

However, there is also the false premise of if we do enough reading and thinking, that the answer will present itself. Like magic, completely independently of us. But we can never know enough. And we can’t outsource our decisions.

Indeed, that sense-making capacity defines us. It is distinctively ours. Let’s use it with courage and awe.

Taking action

As Quiet Disruptors, we can get caught in the labyrinth of our own thinking. In feeling the safety of gathering information. But we need to know that data never makes the best decisions. It can only illuminate what has happened in the past. (Bernadette Jiwa’s book Hunch is a delightful exploration of this.)

So if we want to create a better future, it involves risk. We’ve got to go, ahead of the curve – just too soon – probably before we feel completely ready. Because there are people who are waiting for us to take action. Who will cheer us on, because this isn’t just about us.

This week

Thinking about the week’s posts through the lens of our #FirstFriday discussion:

Monday: Pick a lane Facing the discomfort of choice. But choose we must if our lives and our actions are going to produce fruit. And we also learn along the way “Ready, fire, aim” – thanks Gareth
Tuesday: This too shall pass Calming our inner being so we’re more centred. Ready to see what we need to do more clearly
WednesdayNurturing seeds of hope If we don’t feed our hope, then actions can just become the expression of desperation…
Thursday: What’s in a name? How we speak to and of ourselves makes a big impact on what we think we are here for. And what we have the courage to do… I’m Sue Heatherington and I’m a Quiet Disruptor
Friday: What if? Ordinary and extraordinary questions. What if…? is powerful and propels us toward more courageous action

Thanks for being here