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In the previous essay, we discovered the Ziegarnik Effect: that not acting on decisions causes us to experience a power failure, a personal energy crisis.
When we fail to carry out a task we’ve previously committed ourselves to, it causes us to expend our energy in anxiety and stress rather than in productive ways—and it diminishes the store of energy we can use to accomplish what we need to do.
Intent not acted upon, or precluded from being carried out because of inadequate time or resources, soon evaporates, leaving one depleted of energy and motivation—a personal energy crisis of major proportions. If you constantly feel this way, you may be a self-inflicted victim of the Ziegarnik Effect.
The Baha’i teachings directly address this issue of volition and action, and ask us to find the spiritual resources within ourselves to reverse such patterns:
All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition. Your own acts testify to this truth. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 149.
There are four qualities which I love to see manifested in people: first, enthusiasm and courage; second, a face wreathed in smiles and a radiant countenance; third, that they see all things with their own eyes and not through the eyes of others; fourth, the ability to carry a task, once begun, through to its end. – Baha’u’llah, quoted by Ali-Akbar Furutan in Stories of Baha’u’llah, p. 51.
To overcome that personal energy crisis, the Baha’i teachings recommend the expenditure of two precious commodities—time and resources.
Assuming that you’re willing and able to act to accomplish a goal, you’ll need the necessary time. Some active and willing “doers” either lack the time, or lack the ability to make efficient use of the time available to them to satisfactorily accomplish a task.
In this respect, the pace of life in today’s world can conspire against us. The demands of the larger culture often pull each of us into a swirl of frenetic, never-ending activity, both socially and job-related. Perhaps a certain amount of this claim on our time is unavoidable; however, much is really due to having voluntarily relinquished control.
The eminent scholar Alfred North Whitehead advised us to do a few things, and do them well. This statement rings of such sanity that it stands as being self-evident.
Managing your time well means gaining efficiency in the way you do things. Planning is crucial, because it activates purpose. Planning can also be viewed as structuring the future. In other words, planning is “the conceptual anticipation of the future” that becomes the purpose around which actions can be organized. Through careful planning, which includes the functions of goal setting and the formulation of sub-goals, both short-term and long-term, we can enable ourselves to effectively and efficiently structure the future, making it consistent with intent.
So once you’ve decided to accomplish a task, whether great or small, simple or complex, there remains one more factor that must be taken into account in order to successfully complete it—having the necessary resources.
This can be a very problematic issue, especially given that we live in a materialistic culture which focuses so completely on getting everyone to live far beyond their means. We’re pressured to mortgage our futures by exhausting every avenue of credit spending in order to satisfy the insatiable cravings evoked through clever advertising, not to mention the peer influences of our contemporaries who also are passionately obsessed with the accumulation of material goods.
Consumerist claims on the world’s resources have long ago passed the limits of moderation, and have now entered the realm of the greedy and the obscene. It is so easy for us to get seduced into this endless pursuit of things if we mindlessly give in to it, or even set personal standards that may appear to us as modest in comparison, but which in reality far exceed what we actually need. Moreover, overspending paralyzes our finances, disallowing our taking action on future choices that would have been available to us if we only had the necessary resources. Most of us do not have unlimited resources at our disposal. Given this reality, we must consciously manage our resources to ensure that the priorities we set dictate how those resources should be spent. Furthermore, doing so guarantees that our decisions are backed by fiscal feasibility and sustainability.
You can readily see that intent, guided by purpose and the willingness to act, starting with the setting of reasonable and feasible goals, allowing for adequate time and sufficient resources are the key ingredients that must be present for success in accomplishing any important undertaking. Because these five elements are interrelated and reciprocal with each other, success with any one reflects positively on the others.
Deeds consummated by action, especially if carried out with distinction, motivate each of us to further intentions and actions, allowing the natural predisposition towards self-actualization to unfold.