The culture in America values action over almost everything else. Our desire here to do something, sometimes anything, is strong. Of course, this can be a huge strength, but it can also get us into trouble. And when we get into trouble and don’t get the results we want, we rarely wonder why; instead we blame external forces (someone or something else) and “keep on trucking,” as they say.
Look Before You Leap
To reflect before acting is also an action. I’m not talking about “analysis paralysis” here, but rather understanding how things fit together and affect each another in this interconnected world of ours before taking action. Without that clear understanding, we impatiently rush ahead and either come face to face with what Peter Senge, and other systems thinkers, call unintended consequences (and wonder why) or we come to the abrupt realization (when it really matters) that we don’t have what we need (whether that’s the right resources or commitment) to get results.
And this sets us back if we’re lucky, temporarily, and if we’re not, irrevocably. And it just doesn’t have to be that way.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Don’t just stand there; do something.” Well, perhaps it’s time to turn that around to “Don’t just do something, stand there.” And, perhaps, as Peter Vajda, author, coach and co-founder of SpiritHeart, contends, it’s really just a question of patience.
Impatience “causes us to spend inordinate amounts of time working and re-doing what we did when we were impatient,” which leads to anxiety and stress.
But patience, in this world dominated by action, only makes good sense when it’s accompanied by results. By making a small upfront investment in reflecting on the consequences of your actions before acting, you can save frustration, anxiety, and stress for yourself, and avoid huge setbacks, redo’s, and added (unplanned) costs in your organization.
Results naturally come with this kind of thinking ahead.
Taking the time to make that small upfront investment involves thinking through the implications of your actions first, and I mean really thinking them through:
- Think about how each thing you do, and each thing you ask others to do, will impact your staff, your stakeholders, management, and others on the impact path (and, if you don’t know or aren’t sure, ask others)
- Run your ideas out to their logical conclusion over time, and then decide which action benefits not just you, but the organization
- And then share with everyone impacted by your decision how you got there so they can see what you see and understand where you’re coming from
When you do that, when you take that reflective action, when others see that you are thinking about the impact of your actions and about what’s good the whole of the organization, you’ll be pleasantly surprised just how effortlessly you will achieve the results you want when you most need them.
Have you ever gotten so caught up in just doing something that you ended up somewhere other than where you intended? When unintended consequences happen do you take the time to reflect on why? Have you achieved better results when you’ve thought through the implications of your decisions? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this.
Nicole Gnutzman, Principal at Innate Strategies & workshop leader of Effortless Leadership.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org