While preparing for my last trip to East Africa, I reached out for advice from a man who cares for orphaned children living with AIDS in Uganda. Taking advantage of the time that he was living in San Diego while pursuing a Ph.D., we met up to discuss the water project that I was embarking upon in Kenya. After talking through a variety of approaches to the project, I will never forget the advice that he left me with. “Just do something.”
I’ve spent much of the past several years trying to figure out why it takes me so long to get anything done. The objectives that matter most to me always seem to be stuck in a holding pattern. I’m starting to realize that these indefinite holds have much to do with misunderstanding the relationship between clarity and courage.
I seem to operate as though courage is what you need to come up with a vision for what needs to be done and clarity is what you need to take the first steps of action. I’m learning that the truth is exactly the opposite. We need clarity of vision to decide what is worth investing our lives in and where we should direct our efforts. We need courage to take steps toward fulfilling the vision without assurance that our efforts will succeed. Courage, not clarity, is what empowers us to just do something.
I was reminded by Seth Godin this week that if you don’t have a due date for something, it doesn’t matter to you. This is where commitment fits into the picture. The glue between a clear vision and the courage to move in the right direction is committing to achieving an outcome by a particular date. Sharing the date that our objectives are due with others creates accountability. I’ve never felt more responsible to push forward with the water project that we’re working on in Kenya than when I began to start telling people that 2014 was the year that I wanted to see it completed.
A quick glance at my last few blog posts will indicate that I don’t write consistently enough. I have a vision to write so that I can process what I’m learning from life and share it with others. I have the courage to blog and put my writing out for people to read. What I haven’t had is the commitment to make steady progress. I’m committing now to blogging once a week. There it is. I’ve put my commitment out there and now you can hold me accountable for it.
Developing a clear vision for life takes time and it takes patience. There will be moments when we realize that a vision we felt certain about needs to be adjusted. If we’ve discovered a clear vision but are stuck on how to accomplish it, we need to commit ourselves to the objectives we aim to accomplish by a specific time. Finally, we develop courage by taking steps in the right direction even when we don’t feel like we know what we’re doing.
One thing I know from days of sailing is that a boat is easier to steer when it is moving than when it is sitting still on the water. I’m setting sail on objectives that are important to me and still working to clarify others. What I’m finding most important is having the courage to commit to the outcomes that I’m clear on and to move toward accomplishing them, developing courage as I learn from the journey.