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Fear and the Problem of Doing Nothing; An essay from Katie Rasoul

I have come to truly appreciate the importance of surrounding yourself with people who motivate and inspire you. Through cultivating a vibrant network and saying yes to most opportunities, I often find myself in the room with people who are badass changemakers. Although I am not suggesting comparison, it often does compel you to examine where we do and do not take action in our lives.

When you are surrounded by people who are not just talking about it, but DOING it, it makes you question any moment of your existence that you were wasting on meaningless work. This is often the lesson of the old or dying; regrets about spending our time in a way that was for someone else or on something unimportant (e.g. e-mail). We long to live a life without regret. A life that we spent being true to ourselves, supporting the ideals we believe in, with the people we hold most dear, on the work that is part of something bigger than ourselves. Yet, why do so many of us go about our daily lives not willing to ignite change?

What holds people back from making change? 

It’s simple. Fear.

We stay somewhere we aren’t entirely happy in our own lives because we are afraid of the unknown, the risk. We stay in jobs that drain our spirit because we fear what a step “back” might mean about us. We post on Facebook with “outrage” about a social justice topic, but do nothing to change the daily systemic atrocities that got us there. We do nothing because we are afraid that rocking the boat means we will have less.

The detriment from our inaction is the erosion of our own happiness and fulfilment, and the wearing away of our trust in each other to work and live together for better lives in the future. Like anything that requires maintenance and attention, if we allow fear to cause us to do nothing our relationship with ourselves and others will go from “fixer-upper” to downright uninhabitable.

Now is the Time

We are in a time now where taking action must have its spotlight. Here is how I can tell that the tide is turning towards action right now:

  • This Burger King PSA (yes, you read that right) about bullying went viral. The fact that they made this is amazing, but the statistic of how many people did something when they saw bullying is, well, not.
  • Alleged harassers like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are being called out, fired, and dropped. People are speaking up and taking action.
  • A record number of women took office in congress in the 2018 election. Emily’s List shows over 49,000 women expressing interest and readiness to run for public office.

We are in a terribly divisive time in our political context right now, but what that does mean is that there is motivation for more people to participate in the conversation instead of sleeping through it. What an opportunity this can be!

A “Do Something” Starter List

Looking for some inspiration to start doing something where you were silent or stuck before? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Respectfully speak an opposing viewpoint at holiday family dinner this season
  • Visit websites, donate, or give time to areas of social change rather than just “like” or repost about them
  • Have open discussions with other changemakers in your community, like On The Table
  • When you see bullying, misogyny, racism, or harassment, say something in that moment
  • Ask for what you deserve at work (Time with your boss? That promotion? Flexibility?)
  • Take a step, however small, towards something that sets your soul on fire and repeat weekly

So often, we feel compelled to try and solve the WHOLE problem and then freeze because we are overwhelmed. We can’t do everything, so we do nothing. Instead of knowing all of the right actions to take, just know the next small step that can lead towards the intended result. 

I am not perfect, but in every small choice to take action, I attempt to make the choice to make an impact. The small actions matter, and add up (big actions are welcome too). The problem of doing nothing is that it means we have finished what we’ve set out to do. If your life ended today, would you feel like you did all the things?

All is not lost, friends. Take heart, and take action.

About the author:

Katie Rasoul is a leadership coach, keynote speaker, and Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. She is a TEDx speaker alumna, author of the best-selling book, Hidden Brilliance: A High-Achieving Introvert’s Guide to Self-Discovery, Leadership and Playing Big, and co-host of The Life and Leadership Podcast.

Find out more by visiting www.teamawesomecoaching.com or www.katierasoul.com

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