Anxious and Immobilized
What’s stopping you from moving ahead?
“I do not find the problems themselves as frightening as the questions they raise concerning our capacity to gather our forces and act.” — John Gardner, 1990
This morning was one of those perfect mornings of the waning summer.
You know the kind — when you’ve slept with the window open all night, and the delicious coolness of the early fall settles in, creating the perfect sleeping conditions.
You stir as the morning arrives, sensing the contrast between the chilly air in the room and the beseeching warmth of your bedclothes.
And you decide to remain there in your cozy refuge — an adult version of a childhood blanket fort — feeling snug and content, seemingly impervious to the harsh realities that await outside of your impenetrable cloth fortress.
If only you could stay there all day.
The temptation to remain just as we are is as natural and inviting as that warm bed on a chilly morning.
But the world requires more of us. We require more of us.
Consider what Ernest Shackleton’s men required from him as he led his teams toward the South Pole.
Shackleton is widely considered to be the greatest Antarctic explorer in history, as he made four heroic voyages to the seventh continent.
On his first journey to the South Pole in 1902, Shackleton came within 400 miles of his goal.
On his second in 1907, he managed to come within 97 miles.
On his third expedition in 1914, his ship was crushed in ice, forcing everyone onto ice floes, eventually taking him and part of his crew on an 800-mile journey in a lifeboat to South Georgia Island, and then a 36-hour trek to the other side of the mountainous island to the whaling station at Stromness.
Shackleton died of a heart attack at the age of 47 in 1922 while on his fourth expedition.
On each of those trips, he could have decided to let worry and indecision literally freeze him in place. His only option was to forge ahead, through situations that were unexpected and inhospitable.
He knew other people relied on him, and he was driven by his determination. In the case of his third expedition, the reality required him to change his goal from traversing the continent via the South Pole to ensuring every man in his care survived the ordeal.
But here’s the thing:
Shackleton never reached the South Pole.
He never fulfilled his destiny toward the thing he sought most.
But he is hailed as one of the foremost examples of leadership of the 20th century.
His legacy is a powerful reminder that what matters is not that you succeed, but how you respond to challenges.
Burying your head beneath the covers doesn’t make the challenges of the day magically disperse.
When we choose indecisiveness instead of action, we secretly hope that things will resolve themselves. And they rarely do.
Indecision is still a decision, and in doing so we avoid the hard work of getting going and keeping going.
That fiddling around you’re doing — the doomscrolling, the binge-watching, the staying in bed — it’s keeping you from fulfilling your potential.
Don’t wait for things to happen to you; go out and happen to other things.
Join me back here later this week for some thoughts on procrastination (I’ve been putting this off), with extra links and content for our paid subscribers.
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Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.