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Acting with Thought and Feeling


My last post was about thinking and feeling deeply before acting. A friend pointed out that this would lead to people acting in their usual ways, and this could be a problem. I entirely agree.

For instance,
bureaucracy doesn’t deal with complexity; when it comes across a complex problem the tendency is to add another category.
Management may not respect people; so we tweak the particular system of management or advise the manager.
We don’t like a political result so pursue the usual political and lobbying strategies.
We don’t like how a relationship is going, so do more of the way we have been relating (being emotional or unemotional, analytical or not thought out and so on).

Sometimes the way we do what we do can be a problem (sometimes a very big problem).


What to do?
I’d like to put it this way. Instead of thinking deeply, feeling deeply and then acting: think deeply, feel deeply, then act with thoughtfulness and feeling.

What does this mean in practise? It can mean lots of different things.

The first thing it will probably mean is a pause. Waiting and getting in touch with your thoughts and feelings, what it is you want to do, and what it is you want to achieve.

Which is frustrating.
So you can:

  • stomp around
  • swear under your breath or out loud
  • rant to friends
  • discuss with others
  • distract yourself by getting interested in something
  • distract yourself with something entertaining
  • break things that don’t matter

After a while the frustration will pass; or you will be able to channel it into activity.


What, Why and How

Usually we are more aware of what we want to do than why we want to do it or how we can do it.
We want to:

  • get to the appointment on time
  • remove this person from the office they have been elected to
  • have a friend treat me better
  • not get into that same pointless argument
  • find a better job

All of which can be excellent things. And we will tend to have ways to approach these things that we can slip into automatically. Which might be a problem. Especially if we don’t know why we want it.

You may want to:

  • get to the appointment on time
    because being punctual is courteous and helpful
    because you need to in order to respect yourself
    because you want to please others (perhaps even someone no longer alive)


  • remove the person from the office they have been elected to
    because you are convinced they will damage the people they represent
    because you think they got there by cheating
    because you are feeling vengeful and disgusted


  • have a friend treat you better
    because they are causing you suffering
    because they don’t realise that you are entitled to subservience
    because you want a more harmonious relationship


  • not get into that same pointless argument
    because you are a counsellor and a coach and can’t believe you are getting hooked – again! – and should know better, be more skilled etc.
    because it is suffering for no good cause or reason
    because it only makes things worse


  • find a better job
    because you need more money
    because how you feel about yourself is tied up with your employment or income
    because you want to please others

I hope that this is enough to show that why you want to do something is important and will probably shape what you do and how you want to do it.


The How
You don’t want to make things worse, and it is surprisingly easy to do. When something doesn’t work for us we tend to try to do it better, more intensely or more often.

If you like to be understood then you may want to explain your thoughts. If people don’t understand you may want to explain more clearly – and then more and more clearly. It may eventually occur to you that understanding is about personal connection and that people will relate to the personal rather than general (it can take many years for this penny to drop; at least I have it on good authority).

Giving up our existing way of doing something is not easy. Especially if we feel pressured in some way. Especially if we don’t know another way to proceed.

Which is frustrating – see advice above.

But you don’t want to make things worse. You want to bring worthwhile change.


Getting a Sense of Available Alternatives
There are different ways to get out of your routines, normal ways of thinking and seeing, your ruts and tunnel vision.

Think of some people you know well and imagine what they would do. Think of lots of different people with lots of different ways of doing things: considered and cautious, impulsive, idealistic, driven by beauty, curious and not particularly interested in outcomes. You may end up going with what is familiar to you, but this will make what you do more of a choice. It should help you expand your sense of options, factors to consider, and what success would look like.


Books and other media. We have lots of data. Not always relevant or the kind we want. But usually there will be people with advice on how to do anything we want to do. Usually people will advocate for their way – they have often tried lots of things and found what works for them. So they will often think their way is best for good reason. Read around, try out different ideas and actions and find what works for you.


Reflecting on your own experience. What come easily to you? If you can get what you want easily, it is wise to do so. If you have considered alternatives, aren’t feeling driven and think what you do will get you what you want; take the easy way.


What has worked for you and what hasn’t?

Sometimes bad luck happens. For most of us most of the time, we have a part in creating our experience. Taking time to assess what you do that has contributed to your successes and failures is important.

  • You may ignore your intuition and persevere. Leading to much wasted effort.
  • You may not do any planning and so end up in a mess.
  • You may find it hard to collaborate.
  • We all have our strengths and weaknesses. We can do our best to play to our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses – but only if we are willing to own up to both!


What would be the ideal outcome for you? We can be too accepting of the current, unsatisfactory situation. Contemplating the ideal can help get us out of this. It can also help us clarify why we want what we want.


Random input – an idea from Edward de Bono. Getting random input can help a system re-organise. Edward suggest choosing a word at random from the dictionary and then finding how it connects to the topic being considered. You could do it other ways; the first thing your eye lands on for instance.


Doing, Resting, Learning
It would be rare that you have no influence on people and the situation around you. You can be more or less conscious of the influence we have and the choices available. We are able, to some extent, to shape what we do, where we direct our effort, what we put our time into.

I want to put in a word about the importance of rest. Resting fully energises us. It is a pleasure and important. I think the world needs more people who can rest – we have enough harried and stressed out people already. If you can rest you will likely find that other people are drawn too you, and will feel refreshed for having been with you. Resting is of benefit to you and quite likely to others as well.

It is worth taking time out to reflect and digest. We often live our lives run by an eight year old (ourselves at that age). Which leads to much unnecessary suffering. Consider: Is what you want to do to change what got you here in the first place? We do try to change by doing more of what we are already doing. Which may not be useful.

We learn what it is we want. What our needs are. How to get what we want. We take a small step, see how it goes and then take another step. And so can create a better world, step by step.


To Do

Write on a piece of paper (or record in some way) your answers to the following questions and fill in the blank:

  • What is it I want?
  • Why do I want this?
  • What are my options for getting it?
  • Which option will I pursue?
  • The first step I can take get this before going to sleep tonight is . . .

I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.

If you would like me to write about some aspect of living an authentic life please don't hesitate to get in touch. There is a box in the sidebar where you can leave a question anonymously if you wish, or you can email me, use the contact page, or comment on this post.

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