The Strength of Inaction
"Action breeds progress" is what our noisy, busy, know-it-all world says to us. But that is for progress measured immediately and externally.
What about the internal progress?
What about the things we toss and turn over mentally?
What about the internal beatings and victories?
Missteps and misspent time have taught me that external action often distracts us from dealing with those more important things -- from making that other kind of progress (the kind that lasts).
Would you rather listen to this? You can do so right here:
I recently visited one of my favorite coffee shops in town. It's run by two young gentlemen -- brothers -- and I've recently noticed that they've expanded to a second location in an adjacent town.
As I got out of my truck, parked in the alleyway next to the coffee shop, one of the owners waved his hand to get my attention, saying "hey, thanks for coming by!" We got to chatting.
Yes, they're excited about the expansion, but 2022 will be all about getting operations right, and "putting growth goals aside for now." He was determined and focused as he gave me the unrequested insider's take on his small but exciting venture, and I said; "that will lead to more sustainable success longer-term; smart move." He nodded.
I drove off and thought about that: pausing for long-term productivity.
Patience. Getting "operations" right. Have I done that?
He was trusting in the bigger plan -- the one that took longer but led to a better destination. Was I?
Up the road just a block or two, on a residential street lined on both sides with parked cars, a squirrel darted out in front of my truck. I saw him from about 10 feet away, and as he juked back and forth like Tyreek Hill on a 3rd and short, I yelled to him; "sorry man, I am not swerving and hitting a car. Make a decision dude!"
I gripped the steering wheel, closed my eyes, and simply waited for what I expected would be a "bump-bump" of his body underneath my tires.
But I never heard it -- he must've made it!
I was relieved, but as I drove off, I connected the squirrel situation with the recent lesson from the coffee shop owner: be disciplined; don't overreact.
If the coffee-shop owner over-expands his business in response to the notion of "expand or die," he jeopardizes the existing small business he has. So he trusts the process.
If I overreact to the darting squirrel and steer my truck into a parked car on a residential street, I jeopardize my life and the health of others over a pesky, indecisive squirrel (for whose life I am not responsible). So I close my eyes, keep the wheel steady, and hope for the best.
There are times in life to take swings, absolutely. Wisdom is knowing -- really giving yourself the patience and perspective to know -- whether it's a time for inaction.
Often times, the more tempting it is to act, the more wise it is to stay.
I've been looking over my goals for 2021 and while I accomplished some cool things, like writing my first book, I engaged in tons of activities that had no connection to them.
I am behind on some "big" things and am simply kicking myself for not trying and doing others. I whiffed in some areas this past year because I got pulled into the small, petty, circumstantial things of life. I went after the third coffee shop location or overreacted to the foolish squirrel too much.
Luckily, I didn't jeopardize what God has gifted me for these things, but when it comes to taking inaction to ensure that I make the right kind of progress (big, internal progress), I need to get better. I want 2022 to be different.
In our day and age, perhaps the most worthy challenge is to set goals that will not manifest externally. We won't be able to share an attractive post or point to impressive metrics. These will be internal victories.
When we look back on the year, we will know that we stayed strong and steady in the midst of distractions, discouragements, and temptations. We didn't respond externally, and we're better for it internally.
That is what I want, and I hope that you find it too.