There is only so much you can learn about the rampant corruption, injustice, and exploitation in this world before you start itching to “do something” about these problems. Perhaps you get frustrated that more people aren’t seeing the truth, or that those who do are not taking more action. All this reading, networking, and talking may seem like an ineffective use of time when the world appears to be burning down before our eyes and action is needed now.
It is this impatient attitude that leads to energy wasted in frustration, haste, and self-sabotage. Be wise and remember that preparation and timing are keys to effective action, and that timing is decided by factors not always under your control. Acting prematurely misses the mark just as much as procrastination.
When energy is not being released, it must be accumulated. When time is not ripe for action, make preparations for more effective action. Reading, learning, sharing, discussing, building, networking, practicing — these are ways of accumulating the necessary energy for later release, of setting in place the tools, skills, and infrastructure needed to make the best of what opportunities come.
Opportunities are like open doors. Forcing your way through a closed and locked door is unnecessary. Notice how the most unrewarding endeavors in life are pursued despite internal and external resistance, despite reluctance, nagging intuition, warning signs, and things simply not working out smoothly. These paths are riddled with obstacles that increase distress and make for wasted effort.
Good opportunities open as you stand before them, requiring only that you walk through the door. Notice how the most fulfilling endeavors come with internal and external assistance, accompanied by genuine enthusiasm and things naturally falling into place. Any challenges found on such paths serve to add excitement and transform effort into success. When the best opportunities manifest, you will have neither doubt nor hesitation in acting on them.
As always, there are two risks to avoid here. The first is letting impatience, wishful thinking, or dishonest motivation override your intuition and better judgment. This leads to picking the wrong door or perhaps prematurely forcing your way through the right door. The second risk is in waiting passively for a good opportunity to spring one out of chronic complacency. Let’s examine this second risk more closely.
It is true that when one is on the right path, everything falls into place naturally. But some take this as an excuse for complacency, thinking that since all manifests at its proper time all they need to do is sit and wait. What they forget is that being on the right path is meaningless if one doesn’t move along it. Like a road with exits, the right exit will come at its proper time, but parking and waiting for that exit to arrive is a contradiction.
It is in taking a previous opportunity to its conclusion that the next one manifests, but people already stuck in a rut are starting with zero momentum and must therefore jump start the process by doing something out of their own volition. It is as simple as shifting focus toward something interesting or exciting and going for it.
To summarize, preparation and action are equally important, each having its proper time as determined by circumstance. The time for action is when your readiness and enthusiasm meets with opportunity. If you encounter obstacles instead of challenges, then double check the sincerity of your motivation, examine the soundness of your methods, and check whether conditions are currently ripe to receive your efforts. Lack of progress stems from using force to surmount obstacles or passively waiting for opportunity to arrive. When fear of inadequacy keeps one from taking action, remember that time spent complaining could be better put toward becoming prepared. And lastly, know that all falls into place most elegantly when one stays busy enough with some positive endeavor to keep from anticipating the next.
We are ultimately concerned with actions that enlighten and empower others by presenting them a more truthful alternative. For help to have any effect, the recipients must first become aware of the choice, make the choice, then have what it takes to follow through. It is easy to see that today’s ignorance and suffering originates with people either not being aware of the choice, being aware but not choosing it, or choosing it but not having the fortitude or discipline to put to work.
This then determines what is our responsibility and what is theirs. Our responsibility is to enlighten and empower; theirs is to choose and implement. To enlighten means to clearly present the choice; to empower means to equip those who have chosen. While we may advise them, we cannot force them; while we may support them, we cannot carry their weight.
Ignoring these distinctions leads to wasted energy or dysfunctional dynamics. Consider preachers or quixotic activists who attempt to impose their views on others who have already chosen otherwise, or gurus who create an unhealthy state of dependence by carrying the weight of their followers. To avoid these errant ways, you must know when to inform, when to assist, and when to back off. All this comes with experience if you learn from the results.
Stated simply, the greater your internal enthusiasm and readiness is met by external necessity and opportunity, the more likely you are acting with the flow instead of ego. Signature of such a moment: “This must be done, I have no doubt this is the right thing to do, and I happen to be in a position to do it. My motivation comes from the heart and I am willing to answer its call.”