Caution and Action
Have you ever thought about how similar the two words are?
There is only one letter difference between Caution and Action, and they are antonyms.
One of the trends in Blog-writing today is giving people actionable tasks that they can do to solve a problem. This is something I approach with caution, because, different strokes for different folks. One guy’s gentle stroke is another gal’s hard poke.
Also, shrewdly – I realise that anything I say will potentially risk alienating anyone with a different worldview or ability. So, if I don’t give out unsolicited advice, I still get to be everyone’s pal. On a serious note, it is important to take this into consideration. As a writer, I believe my purpose is to open up the world and its possibilities, not narrow them down.
How I Cautiously think about Action...
So, the least I can do, is give you an insight into the mechanism by which my mind solves problems, and that is a work-in-progress, very much happening live, in real-time... I am the sort of person that will grasp for a solution, fast, and begin to voice it. I am also the kind of person that ends sentences mid-way through, because I’ve already worked out that what I was going to say will add nothing to the situation.
Well, there you go, an example of Caution in Action, or Action in Caution. But did you know that these two concepts were so intertwined? Caution and Action are brothers, the Yin and Yang, the sun and moon.
There are wonderful things about Action. Getting things done, being that go-to-guy because people know you’re going to deliver. Feeling fun, dynamic, capable. In my twenties I was all about action – throwing myself headfirst into whatever obsession I had, be it activism, performing, or being in love.
Is there such thing as too much ‘Action’?
I certainly think so. I sure was. At that time, was I aware of objectives and goals? Did I know what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it? Vaguely, yes, but on a day-to-day-basis, no. This caused impracticalities such as, not being organised enough to cook myself dinner, racking up debts, hurting people, hurting myself – and all these things achieved completely unconsciously. Clever work, me.
As I turned thirty, moved country, and fell in love with someone who was going to love me back in the way I needed, this ‘Action Man’ lifestyle felt like chaos beyond what I could handle, and everything became controlled, rigid. I had to limit the collateral damage as I felt fragile and couldn’t weather the hits and shocks I had been able to up until that point. Caution. Daily routines. This new move was about caring for myself, repairing myself.
It was the recovery time I needed, but eventually anything unexpected felt terrifying. The pandemic only consolidated and encouraged that state of being.
Too much caution is painful too
How much can be controlled? How much can you stop and let the world get by, suspicious of others and their motives, yet be afraid to make a wrong move?
After a big operation earlier this year, I have been slowly healing. I am ready to let go of some of the Caution, it’s the only way I can move into the next chapter of my life, do the things I want to do, such as flamenco dancing, learn to drive, complete an official qualification in Spanish, get more recognition (or readership) as a writer (I had to force myself to write that, such is my caution).
Understanding Caution serves me well. Constant Action does not always help creativity, no matter what they say. Eventually you are an empty husk, parched of ideas, and they do not come of their own accord. Structure, routine, and rigorous practice is the best way to go.
It sounds boring and I have never found it easy but Caution really does beget Action. A routine, self-care, eating right – these things are talked about so regularly they should be trademarked. And they are far easier to say than to do. I’m still working on it.
Caution allows you to have a clear mind
And it is only then that you know what Action you can take. The one that works for you. The one that flows from you. No one else’s action. No one else’s, ‘I write twelve articles in one week’, ‘or I run every morning’, or, ‘I post exciting content every day’, or, whatever it is. It is your Action, and no one else’s.
To Act in a way that is fulfilling to you, you need to be deliberate about the Action you’re going to take. And there we complete the circle, Action is taken mindfully, with the sharp thrill of Caution to guide you.
ID: Four images surround a caption in a yellow box that says, ‘Caution or Action?’ The two pictures at the top have the word ‘Caution...’ superimposed on top of them in white. The photo on the left is black and white and is of me dressed in drag as a grumpy-looking man. I am wearing a large black hat and a white shirt, black tie and dark blazer. The photo on the right is a soft-focus retro-style photo of me dressed up as Kate Bush, my hair is big and my hands frame my face and are tied together with tape saying ‘fragile’. The photos at the bottom have ‘Action!’ superimposed over them. In both photos I am holding a megaphone and shouting into a crowd. In both I am wearing a beige coat, but in the photo on the right I am wearing a red beret.