Patience vs. Taking Action: Where Does Procrastination Start?

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(Note: This post started off as a post about having more patience. As an impatient person, I’ve managed to morph this effort into weighing the pros and cons of patience vs. action. I’m not sure what that means, but coming clean to you seemed important, perhaps so you understand my innate bias toward taking action).

Both taking action and having patience help us accomplish our goals, but the question is how do we know when to use which? This is an issue that comes into play with a great deal of frequency: Timing the stock market correctly, making sound business decisions, and even knowing when to get involved in a hand while playing poker all spring to mind. Even in social situations, balancing patience and action is important:  Want to bring up a difficult conversation with your spouse, a friend, or your child? How do you time it?

Having patience means we’re allowing ourselves to be in the natural flow and not forcing the action. We trust that we’ll know when to take inspired action, and that action will help us get to where we want to go.

Too much patience, though, means we’re procrastinating and are waiting for the perfect moment as an excuse to put off doing something. Maybe we’re afraid, maybe we just aren’t motivated. So we wait for seemingly divine inspiration to get us moving. When that inspiration doesn’t come, we don’t accomplish anything.

In contrast, taking action keeps us moving. If we don’t like the outcome, we can always adjust on the go and get back on track. Rarely do we take an action that so derails us we can’t recover. We can learn as we go, and by doing so we arguably learn more than the person who sits and waits for the right moment.

Sometimes taking action too soon, though, forces the action and creates messes we could have avoided by waiting for a better moment. And sometimes taking action does create a mistake from which you can never recover. Misguided action creates chaos that might never occur if you’re patient and wait for the right opportunity.

Deciding between patience and action involves several factors. One is knowing yourself. Are you a procrastinator by nature or an action taker? Just by knowing your natural bias you can make better choices since you can adjust your behavior to account for your inherent tendencies.

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Another factor is trusting your instincts. You can look at your instincts as something that come from God/the Universe/your higher-self, but you can also look at them as an accumulation of past experience that’s seeped into your subconscious. Sometimes your gut just knows if you should wait or move forward, and learning to listen to your instincts is a great step in balancing action and patience.

Do you tend toward action or patience? And if so, how do you balance out your decision-making process?

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