The Art of Doing
Constructive Action and Personal Development
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | February 2016 (edited 10-3-2021)
Constructive action is behind real change. We can plan, dream, and hope, but until we start doing nothing changes.
We create a flourishing life through collections of choices. Most single choices don’t exalt or destroy the future—although some nasty ones might. There’s nothing flashy about this truth. The dull path of success fails to sell itself; the bland path of success is often abandoned for flashy lies of ease. The lack of spectacular awe of natural laws leaves the paths of flourishing lonely; many fail to embark on this incredible journey.
We experience life through doing, feeling and thinking. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote, "It is within these parameters (doing, feeling, thinking) that life unfolds, and it is how we choose what we do, and how we approach it, that will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur, or to something resembling a work of art" (1998, p. 13).
Flourishing Life and Doing
By doing, creating, and engaging, we experience a fuller life. When our minds engage in living, we limit the pointless chatter of wandering thoughts. We focus on the work at hand. Challenging activity draws attention, demanding focus; the meager remaining resources are too exhausted to drift into fruitless ruminations. Heavy demands engage the mind, diverting the lazy wanderings to a focused activity; but all engaging activities are not of equal value. We shouldn’t be busy wasting time just to be busy.
We should direct energy to meaningful activities, forming a more cultivated future, drawing us closer to our intentions. We must appreciate the preciousness of time and purposely organize efforts rather than aimlessly drift. Our activities cultivate a richer, meaningful life or heavily draw upon futures.
Rest and Success
We need not march to an unrelenting pace of frenzied business even when the activities are of worth. The body needs recovery. Sometimes an evening of rest benefits health; other times it procrastinates. Subjectively, we can justify either. But reality plays out no matter what the justifications. Too many nights of ease destroy relationships, financial security and over-flows the laundry basket. Too few evenings of ease, destroys health, drains precious energy and also damages relationships.
I met a man whose life of ease came at a heavy cost. In his early fifties, he had lost it all; alienated from his children, family and friends. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he recalled the could-have-beens. The formative years of relationships was plagued by addictions, failed loyalties and inconsistency.
Now in his fifties, he landed on the street, unemployed, unsheltered and unskilled. He neglected the precious years of early adulthood, chasing the underlying beastly emotions, following women, drinking to excess, and sleeping through morning alarms. Undeterred by silly commitments, he lived life as circumstances compelled. But riotous living accumulates, the consequences strike damaging the future with painful blows from the judge’s gavel.
Choices, behaviors, and chaos haunt the unsuspecting wanderer. The past catches up with the pleasured undisciplined life. While youthful engagements seem under control, they push the blind perilously closer to the edge.
Books on Successful Action
Time is Precious
Squandering precious moments suffocates the future. The seemingly insignificant behaviors in the present compound and debilitate. There’s still hope; even though the wasted time is gone--forever. We can fight back; blaze a new trail and begin to gather new hopes and blessings. This is not easy; help is usually required. The poor choices that accumulated have left a mark, our freedom to choose is strangled with limiting addictions.
Often protective cognitions have pierced our sense of reality and our sense of security relies heavily on delusions to dull the pain of an unfulfilling existence. The further we drift from purposeful living, the more arduous the return path. Get help. Be honest. Be open. Be humble.
The work is there. Precious time continuous to pass. Mindfully examine behaviors. Ask, “Are they creating or destroying the future?” Once the damaging actions are Identified start the work by do, do, doing.
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Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1998). Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. Basic Books; 1st edition.