I have to admit: I am a collector. I especially love to collect books. I recently found yet another magazine about getting your writing published. Counting the one I just bought last week, I have five such magazines. I have a few things published, but I would like to do so much more. I have collected a lot more information about publishing than actually doing work to get published. This makes absolutely no sense.
Likewise, I have been collecting vegan cookbooks for far too long. I have recipes. Sometimes, I have ingredients. But I don’t make any of those recipes. Why am I not taking action?
I think it’s because gathering information makes me feel like I have accomplished something. I bought a book. See? I’m making progress.
The only problem is that getting more information is not progress. Getting books about writing will not get me published. Only writing will. Similarly, getting vegan cookbooks will not make me a vegan. Only making the necessary changes will.
Sometimes we can become so obsessed with getting more information, even when we haven’t bothered to act on the information we already have.
Apparently, this is not a new problem. And I am not alone in not doing what I know God has instructed me to do. The bible talks about people hearing but not implementing what they hear. James says that those that don’t follow hearing with action are deceiving themselves (James 1:22).
That is exactly what I have been doing: deceiving myself. In this case, I am deceiving myself into thinking that by gathering information I am doing what God wants me to do. The key is the doing. The key is to take action. I will never know everything. Ever. At some point I have to put into practice all that I have learned. Learning is great, but information is useless without action.
It is so easy to deceive ourselves into believing that information and action are the same. God wants me to write and he wants me to change my diet in a big way. Collecting information about these things is not the same as taking action.
Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. Sometimes the initial step is the hardest. It is very easy to stand back and see all that you need or want to do and feel overwhelmed. I have a million things I’d like to write: books, articles, blog posts, journal entries, and the occasional poem. It’s easy to look at this list and feel paralyzed by indecision.
I have found, however, that the best approach is to just start somewhere. What is one small step that I can take today that will help me on my way? Identify one small step to take right now. Remember, you can always build on it tomorrow. But choose a small step and take it. You then have something to build on. It’s okay to start small. As long as you start.
I know one of the things that stops me from starting is the pressure to be perfect. I experience this with the thought of becoming vegan. I fear that I will slip up and have an egg and that will make me a bad vegan.
At breakfast this morning my friend just removed that pressure from me. She said that progress may look like two steps forward, one step back. It’s not a straight line. The road to success might be jagged but it is headed in the right direction.
Similarly, I feel like my first draft has to be perfect. I can sit staring at the blinking cursor paralyzed with fear of not choosing the perfect word. As of late though, I have been learning to let myself do a crappy first draft. The first draft is just a start (there’s that word again). I will have the opportunity to revise and make my work better.
Address the Fear
Another thing that keeps me from starting is fear. Sometimes it’s the fear of failing. It could be the fear of the unknown or the fear of rejection. However, we have to take chances. Some things are learned along the way. I decided that I was not going to be ruled by fear. Fear is a cruel master. It can make you do crazy things or prevent you from doing anything at all. Either of these can ruin your life. I refuse to come to the end of my life full of regret that I didn’t try because I was scared. It would be one thing if I didn’t have the ability or resources to do something. But fear is not a reason for not taking action. I refuse to go out like a punk.
It can be hard to take action, especially if it’s something big and life-changing. You feel like the whole world (all your friends and family, at least) will be watching and waiting for you to fail. In truth, some might be. However, you can’t let that stop you because there are others that are cheering for you to succeed. There are still others that will follow in your footsteps. Don’t give in to the pressure and the fear. Just make a start. You can always improve. But you can’t improve if you never start.