Ready to Act
Balance Between Reflection and Action
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | November 2017 (edited 2021)
A healthy mind utilizes many states of excitement and rest. We must find a balance; ready to act but also wise enough to pause.
When the brain is in a heightened state of excitation, neurons fire rapidly—and we feel it. Some people prefer these rushes of excitement over quietness. Excitement has evolutionary roots. An excited system prepares the body for crisis. After twenty-five years of police work, I’ve experienced my share of excitement. Quietness is shattered when a gunshot cuts through the cold air. The new stimulus momentarily freezes the mind, quickly followed by a reorientation to search for more information. The experience of danger that initiates the rapid firing of neurons springs from many life encounters—not just guns. A child in danger, an empty bank account, or a positive cancer screening awakens our fears, exciting our system. We are ready to act.
Dynamic events don't always prod action. Sometimes our readiness to act is suppressed by overwhelm. Instead of readiness for a response, we freeze. Some people perform well under pressure while others crumble. Brain excitation is unbearably discomforting for some, while for others, it only pushes action. Many welcome the excited states; often it is the quietness that distresses them.
The Excited Mind
We all have our constellation of challenges.
A constantly excited mind misses the benefits of honest reflection that accompanies solitude. If we are dissatisfied with our life, self-searching may unearth the behaviors sabotaging success. In quietness, we may discover what we previously preferred to leave buried. Busy minds keep unsavory realities hidden, while quietness invites the unconscious to the surface. Sadly, to protect their hidden injuries, many lose the enjoyment of healthy escapes only found in the quiet corners of their mind.
"A constant excited mind, however, misses the benefits of honest reflection that typically accompanies solitude."
Failure to Act
Conversely, we can’t hide in quietness, cowering when confronted with challenges. Many healthy practices can serve as building blocks or stumbling stones. Exercise, meditation, and reflection can build resilience, gather wisdom or serve as an escape from necessary action. A calm mind is wonderful, except, of course, when we need it to be excited and ready to act.
We must bounce back and forth, engaging life on the treacherous paths of existence. We must develop the emotional maturity to encounter fierce emotions with courage and resilience. Many of life’s bullies must be stood up to and challenged, only then do we escape their villainess and emerge the victor.
Balance is tricky, never completely perfect. As we encounter the dynamics of an ever-changing and unpredictable life, we must adjust placing more weight on one side of the scale or the other. Some days we achieve more by sitting in nature and rejuvenating. Other times, we must step out of our minds and into reality, ready to act, and work towards the solution. Balance is a never-ending challenge.
Enjoy the peaceful corners of your mind, extract the hidden wisdoms and rejuvenating peace, but remain ready to act, sampling solutions and creative investigating new paths that move you forward instead of languishing in the moment.
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