Thinking reflection and action

When we are thinking, we are not reflecting. To reflect on something is to stop thinking about it. Reflecting is opening up to dawning realizations that arise in an open mind. Insights come to us in ways we cannot come up with by thinking. When thinking is a big problem, "not thinking" is characterized as emptiness, presence, not-knowing, or beginner's mind. We get out of our way to let effectiveness come through us. Right action arises within a mind disciplined to not think about it.

When we are thinking, we are prone to over-intellectualizing and the neglect of action. Pete Reilly calls our attention to this problem in his recent post: The Learning Dojo. Thinking is an extreme solution and is inherently out of balance. When we reflect on the nature of thinking, we are not thinking. We are receiving insights that enable us to trust thinking less and see unthinkable alternatives. When we seek balance in a situation, we will naturally offset thinking with the combination of reflection and action.

When we are acting, we are also prone to over-reacting and the neglect of reflection. Action is also an extreme solution that is inherently out of balance. Our conduct may be dictated by the "force of habit" or our "tactical fixations". Our actions can:

  • lose sight of the mission or guiding purpose
  • dwell on some overblown necessity or set-up to retaliate 
  • fall for the bait to sabotage our own interests and legacy
  • get ambushed by anyone wise to our over-zealous pursuits

Principled conduct emerges from our experiments with the application of concepts in practice. We discover what happens when we have something in mind and act upon it. We realize what price we pay to conceptualize a situation in a particular way and act accordingly. We then add complexity to our considerations before jumping the gun next time. We realize better ways to make sense of situations before intervening. We learn by gaming to pursue more effective strategies with better intentions and objectives.

Reflective practicing comes up with the right thing to say and do. In hindsight, the action proves to be effective, demonstrates inherent balance and provides leadership naturally. We discipline our minds, not only by stopping our thinking, but by adding an open conceptual framework for reflecting on avenues of conduct. Our open mind receives what to do, when to act and how to inter-relate in ways that yield reciprocal balance.

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