Action, Not Warm Thoughts

In a well-intentioned effort to increase tranquility, happiness, and fulfillment, the modern world is littered with exhortations to feel gratitude. Just think about how lucky you are. Just think about how much you have to be thankful for. Just think about the billions, literally billions, suffering through incredibly stressful existences.

As evidenced by a society seemingly no better than previous iterations at reaching an enlightened state, the exhortations aren’t doing much good. To be sure, if one is able to remember that things can always be worse, that moment takes on a different, possibly superior tenor, but that experience is stubbornly impermanent.

I posit that this conundrum is solved through determined action, since it is terribly unlikely to replace negative thoughts through thought alone. Thoughts lead to action and action defines character and on and on – I’m not saying anything original. Yet, I kept thinking about these concepts while watching you in xxxxxxxxx, thinking how people were going to take away the wrong lesson.

You inspire me. This fact has very little to do with your present incarceration and nearly everything to do with your actions. I get that I can’t claim to know you by merely watching a documentary; I can say, though, that what was presented moved me in similar ways that Bill Gates moves me.

Too often, inspiration stops at pleasant thoughts. Look at all that xxxxxxxxx can do while incarcerated. He reminds me that I should be able to achieve so much. I have my freedom and countless other advantages. I’m so appreciative for all that I have. These thoughts feel good, but they are not resilient. Yes, it’s true that there are always people worse off, but it’s just as true that there are always people better off. In moments of challenge, it’s easier to default to the latter perspective – I’m not as smart as person x, I’m not as healthy as person y, I’m not as charismatic as person z, etc. – so failure can be excused.

This is why the look-at-how-impressive-xxxxxxxxx-is takeaway is unfruitful long-term. And even a xxxxxxxxx-inspired compulsion to action, while better, is probably equally unfruitful. The key ingredient is acceptance that taking action, regardless of circumstance, is going to involve challenge. And challenge usually sucks in the moment. If you are not prepared to deal with that reality, no amount of good thoughts will matter. That’s true for you and Bill Gates and me.

So, thanks for the reminder. I cling to certain excuses and rationalizations for not accomplishing more in my own life. I know I am not unique in this practice. I also know that I can transcend this weakness but that doing so is about far more than merely thinking, writing, or speaking about it.