Committing to Action

A couple of years ago, I read Wicked. I was inspired by a friend who had just gone to see the Broadway show; she raved about how good it was, so I checked the book out from the library. First, she was right. It was amazing. I really love all these retellings of old stories from the villain’s perspective that have come out in the last several years and this one in particular was really good. The kind of story that sits with you long after you’ve put it down.

But second, there was a quote – I think it was in the preface of the book – that has had profound implications in my own life. Now truth be told, I returned the book to the library. I don’t remember the exact quote. But in researching it, I found this:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

It’s been attributed to W.H. Murray and appears he was loosely quoting Goethe in part of it. (It’s interesting how we can take a thread of someone else’s thought and spin it into something new.)

How many times have we come up with brilliant ideas late at night and shelved them in the light of day once we start questioning ourselves? How many times have we thought to reach out to someone and let the rest of our to-do list take over and the intent was buried? How many times have we thought about taking better care of ourselves never to turn the thought into any action? How many times have we not taken action because we are afraid of looking foolish or failing?

For me, this quote is all about taking a leap of faith. I came across it during a time in my life I was pondering decisions that had life-changing implications. I made my pros and cons lists, researched the advice of experts in the field, compiled graphs and spreadsheets and forecasting tools. But in the end, I had to commit to a decision and take action. Throughout my journey, I reflected on the words above. And I found them to be true. The boldness of an action creates a ripple effect you cannot always quantify in a forecasting table. Sometimes you need to take a leap of faith and trust.

Conversely, we need to recognize those around us taking similar leaps of faith. We need to do whatever is in our means to help those who feel like they’re falling and sometimes it’s as simple as kind words.

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