You Just Have To Do Something: Taking Action In Times Of Crippling Fear

Perfection isn’t just overrated. It’s impossible.

Sometimes in life we get wrapped up trying to be the best, that we end up miserable. Or, we only do something if we know for sure that we’re good at it. We don’t want to risk the frustration or embarrassment of potential failure. And other times, we don’t feel like we know what to do in a crisis, so we sit back and let people who are “professionals” do all the work.

I bring this up because in the past few weeks, a post by Jonathan Moore has been making “Ye Olde Internet Rounds” and with good reason. It’s an utterly beautiful and inspirational post, but not because it’s perfect. It’s amazing because it’s about the power of acting imperfectly in the right moment.

In the post, Moore retells the harrowing story of watching his son almost drown:

Later on, the pediatrician who treated Moore’s son at the hospital told him it didn’t matter that he didn’t know how to do CPR. The fact that he did something…just something…saved his son’s life. As Moore writes, the doctor said, “You don’t have to do it right. You just have to do something.”

This is such an important thing to remember in life. Moore continues to state that so often in important moments we’re too afraid of making the wrong decisions that we neglect to make any at all. In my own personal experience, this is utterly true. The only good things in my life have come from acting, often without knowledge that everything would work out.

When I was twenty I thought I might want to be a librarian for a living. So, I applied for an internship at the Library of Congress and to my elation, I was accepted. Then, the night before I had to leave for Washington, DC, I was overcome with panic. I was stressed out of my mind with the fear that I was about to make a huge mistake. Until that time, I’d just worked hard in school and done well in the classes that I was “supposed” to take. This was the first time I chose a job to put me in line for a career. What if I was doing an internship for a job I would never take? If you don’t take the right internships, it seems like you can never get into the right jobs. What if I made the wrong choice? What if my life was ruined?

My mother pulled me aside, talked me down from my panic, and then said, “Look, no matter what happens, doing this internship isn’t a bad idea. If you spend an entire summer learning about being a librarian and decide it’s the last thing you want to do, then the entire experience was worth it because you learned something important about yourself.” And since then, that’s how I’ve approached every experience in life. I’ve just done things…without knowing if everything was going to work out perfectly, and I’ve learned so much more about the world, and about myself, than I would have had I played it safe.

When you make big leaps in life–whether in moments of crisis or in moments of personal importance–you learn more than you would by standing still. You also always do more because you simply did something.

You just have to do something.

Featured image via Shutterstock.