No More Screwing Around

“Enough of this miserable, whining life. Stop monkeying around! Why are you troubled? What’s new here? What’s so confounding? The one responsible? Take a good look. Or just the matter itself? Then look at that. There’s nothing else to look at. And as far as the gods go, by now you could try being more straightforward and kind. It’s the same, whether you’ve examined these things for a hundred years, or only three.”

MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 9.37

The thrust of today’s entry in The Daily Stoic book is that it’s time to stop screwing around, and just basically take the bull by the horns and address what needs to be addressed. If you don’t like the situation you’re in, well then freaking change it already.

Author Ryan Holiday references a quote by Jean Didion: “Character β€” the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life β€” is the source from which self-respect springs.”

If you’re going to have any pride in yourself, you need to take ownership of your own situation, and take responsibility for it. Don’t waste time thinking and moping about what you don’t like in your current life, or how you wish it was different. Thinking isn’t going to make it happen or cause anything to change; doing will.

Do something about it! Not later β€” the time is now. Be the owner of your own life. Take agency over your situation, and do it immediately, not after analyzing and thinking some more.

Take responsibility, then take action. Momentum will build. You’ll reach your goals, and self-respect will follow.

The power of taking imperfect action

I’m reminded of one of my favorite mantras: Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.

It means that just taking a step, being bold and taking action, is worth innumerably more than all the planning, discussion, and preparing in the world. It’s better to take action and be totally wrong, than to prepare forever and never take any action at all.

Why? Because by taking action, you have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. You have the chance to see what doesn’t work, and adjust, and take action again. And then at least you’ve gotten started. That’s what the Bill Gates and the Steve Jobs and the Jeff Bezoses of the world do. They don’t sit around planning forever, or griping about their situation. They just take action, and learn from it.

Compare that to someone who just keeps endlessly preparing. They’re not even on the road yet. They can’t succeed because they haven’t started. They can’t learn anything because they’re not taking any chances, or even sticking a foot out of bed yet.

Hey, no shame. I struggle with “paralysis by analysis” all the time. That’s why this is my favorite mantra, because I need to remember it. I need to move past my fear of making a mistake, and just take that next step.

One more quote, which I just read for the first time today:

β€œIt is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

We all need to remember to take agency and take responsibility for our current lives and situations, and change what we don’t like, instead of just criticizing and complaining about it. Take bold, imperfect action, and self-respect will follow soon after.

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