Effective Change Requires Insight Plus Action



Action without insight is thoughtless, clumsy, blundering, a waste of good energy, maybe even dangerous. That stupid, ‘Ready! Fire! Aim!’ thing might have been cute in the wild ’80s but today it just sounds juvenile.

Insight without action is passive, over-analyzing, intellectualizing nonsense, an exercise in futility and frustration. Just having insight and not using it can lead to anxiety, depression, indecisiveness, low self-esteem, that frozen ‘deer-in-the-headlights-I’m doomed’ feeling.

Either way, nothing changes.

What to do about it? Geez, I was afraid you were going to ask…  OK. Let’s see:

If you are prone to Action Without Insight, slow down. The person who acts before they think is often accused of being selfish.  I don’t think that’s always the case, at least not intentionally, but it is often the result. People can get hurt if they are close to an Action Without Insight person.

Before you act, do that classic count to ten thing. Think about how your action effects others and look for actions where everyone can win. No man is an island, remember? We are all part of a team, whether it be at work, in our communities, families or in our marriages. Even if we are the Boss, our lives are made up of partnerships.

Discuss options for important actions with trusted friends or colleagues. Take a bit of time to meditate, mull over consequences, gather information. You may end up in the same place you started but you will be more confident, effective and respected as a result of using your insight before you act.

If you are an Insight Without Action person, just do something for God’s sake! 

Before therapy, I was an intellectualizing champ! Analyzing problems to death, doing research well into the wee wee hours (and that was before the Internet!), talking to whoever had the patience to listen until they wearily dragged themselves home, that was me. Thinking about stuff was a valued family trait. Doing stuff, not so much. So what cured me?

1. Someone believed in me enough to say, “Whatever you decide, it will be all right, because you are all right.” That was my first therapist. Slowly the message sunk in and I (shakily) began to believe it myself.

2. From that platform I held my nose, closed my eyes and took the action plunge. The Zen masters say, “Leap, and the net will appear.” It’s not magic, it’s simple faith.

3. Embrace Good Enough. Accept that no action taken, no decision made, is perfect. They don’t have to be. A rocky stepping stone in the middle of a rushing stream will get you to the other side just as well as a path on solid ground. Even if your feet get a little wet.

One comment


  • Diana Pacheco

    If my heart needs warmth, if my soul needs, seeks nurturance, if my being, including my brain, feels the need to be a better person or look for answers, I think about your blog and browse it.
    I know, for sure, I’ll find something that will get me to my goal.

    Thank you for sharing who you are.

    2011/08/23

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