One of the things that I have learned over the last 5 years, with my child battling cancer, my marriage ending, my cousin dying and my new journey as a coach is that imperfect action is better than perfect inaction. I have also learned to really love and accept who I am and how I want to engage in the world.
It is so easy to get stuck in a place where you feel that you can’t act until everything is in place – I’ll get life insurance when I lose 20lbs, I’ll resign my job when I have X-many dollars in my bank account, I’ll start learning the guitar when I have more time, I’ll break up with my lover when I find someone else…. While we all know that it’s good and important to plan for the future, you also have to live in the right now. Because this moment, this moment is your life.
I have usually been pretty good at acting in ways that recognize that my life right now is important and worth living. Actions, which are big – major decisions, like emigrating from the UK, having children, buying or selling my home – have, generally not been difficult for me to commit to completing. What has taken more time to evolve into, is the realization that sometimes you need to act before you feel ready to act: the concept of imperfect action.
The more I have worked on myself, the more I realized that the brakes holding me back here were around this notion of imperfect action. What if, by acting too soon, before I really felt ready, I was not following the path of right action: that is, would I perhaps be harming someone, or myself? I aim to act with compassion, so if I hurt someone or myself, it was not intentional, so, I worked hard to let this one go.
Then, there is the element of imperfect action that relates to speech and what I struggled with more, was the ability to speak what I felt needed to be spoken. Could I speak to the person, at the moment it needed to be said? I would procrastinate. When my marriage ended, people I knew and loved died or suffered immensely I realized that this could not continue. There was no way that I was going to continue to live this way.
So, I looked at myself. Whenever a situation came up where I felt compelled to talk to someone about something – maybe something that would be considered hurtful, or upsetting, but that I felt needed saying or doing – I realized that I wasn’t acting out of a place of fear. Fear that I would be rejected or the recipient of anger or confusion.
But, as one of my mentors recently said to me – you have a gift: you help people, and what you need to do is get over your fears and become obsessed with how you can help people, and ultimately that requires that you speak and act. However, remember to keep yourself safe and nourished and not to give everything away. This was a reality for me recently: I had a friendship for many years which I ended when I realized that everything was always on her terms and, when I reached out to her with terrible and sad news, she didn’t even acknowledge it. So, I let her go.
As I approach my 40th birthday (10 days), and enter Chapter 2 of my life, I have committed to this path: I don’t want superficial, how’s-the-weather kinds of conversations anymore. I want more. I want deep, intense, satisfying exchanges with those who cross my path and those who are firmly embedded in my life. I want to be challenged and to challenge. I want to support and know where and when I can reach out for support. These exchanges result in growth and deep satisfying relationships, which, let’s face it, is the basis for a life well lived.
That’s how I have chosen to live my life going forward. It’s how I have chosen to engage with the people around me – truthfully, deeply, mindfully and with acceptance – of myself, of my fears and ultimately for the love I have for myself and those I engage with on this journey.
So, I invite you to look deep inside. What can you do or say today – that needs to be said or done? Take that first step. Here are some guidelines:
1) Reflect, before you act & speak: is this a good time, a good place, what are the clearest & kindest words?
2) Act & speak from a place of mindful compassion: pause & acknowledge the reaction, ground your words and actions from a place of love
3) Reflect on the interaction – did you say everything you wanted to say? Did you say it kindly? If not, call them back, go over and see them and re-open the conversation
Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.
Copyright Tamsin Astor, YogaBrained LLC, 2016.