“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s quote, which I (badly) paraphrased in this blog title, serves as both motivation and an important source of inspiration as we continue to trek through the cold and snow to meetings. On those especially cold days like today, I find myself spending more time curled up on the couch, hidden under many layers of blankets, reflecting on the week that just passed, the week ahead, and my long to do list that still needs to be completed.
As Goethe reminds us, thinking is indeed the easiest part. It’s easy to sit, it’s easy to be inactive, having only your mind do the work. If one were to speculate on why it is easier, I would have to argue that we label something as easy when it allows us to avoid what scares us. I would argue that acting – moving, doing, taking that first step – is scary because the possibility of failure becomes all too real. In the realm of thought, failure is either inevitable or nearly impossible. In either case, confining unbridled success or total failure to one’s imagination makes the possibilities both accessible and impossible, allowing one to experience the accompanying emotions without having to deal with the reality. Thinking allows one to examine all possibilities, rejecting the negative outcomes and embracing the positives, all without ever having to truly risk those uncomfortable moments or outright failures.
This fear has been a barrier that has forced its way into my life and my work on more than one occasion. The overwhelming paralysis brought on by fear of failure, or even fear of success, may prevent bad things from happening, but it is most disappointing when it prevents something wonderful from taking place. What I have learnt over my time in student affairs is that fear, when used correctly, is a motivator itself. That adrenaline, that nervous excitement, could be a stumbling block, but I see it now as a wonderful motivator. Yes moving is tough. Yes thought is simpler. But curiosity, always wondering ‘what if’ is not the way I choose to live my life anymore. I cannot yet offer the magic solution for making the fear disappear, because I truly think that would only make things worse. I choose now to use fear rather than ignore it, to master it rather than to let it it control me. In the words of Winston Churchill:
“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts”.
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