Deciding and Doing

I finally finished reading Andy Andrews’ book, The Noticer. The length of time it took me to read it has nothing to do with the book, which is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read, but my having gotten distracted by other things (including writing my own book). It is a book that contains much simple wisdom and I found myself dog-earring a number of pages to go back to.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on change, which contains some useful reminders, including a centrally important one about the difference between deciding to do something and actually doing it.

The wisdom figure, Jones, asks a question to one of the people he meets. Simple math: “Five seagulls are sitting on a dock. One of them decides to fly away. How manys seagulls are left?” His companion answers, “Well…four.” But, as Jones points out, there are still five seagulls left. “Deciding to fly away and actually flying away are two very different things.”

We often talk about intentions and we often have very good intentions. But unless our intentions result in action, we might as not have them. As Jones points out to his young friend, “there is no difference in the person who intends to do things differently and the one who never thinks about it in the first place.”

He then makes another point which struck me as worth reflecting on: “Have you ever considered how often we judge ourselves by our intentions while we judge others by their actions? Yet intention without action is an insult to those who expect the best from you. ‘I intended to bring you flowers, but I didn’t. I meant to fininsh this work on time.’ ‘I was going to be there for your birthday…'”

I suspect Jones is right in saying we are far quicker to excuse our own action or inaction based on our good intention than we are to excuse others. Just something to think about.

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