Putting Ideas Into Action

Posted on September 14th, 2011
Posted in Articles

“The ability to convert ideas to things is the secret to outward success.” – Henry Ward Beecher, American prominent Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, abolitionist up to and during the Civil War, author, and speaker, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (1813-1887)

Sometimes we sit in the recovery rooms and wonder what it is that causes others to limit themselves so much. As we listen to the various tales of woe, aren’t we often struck by two somewhat simultaneous thoughts? On the one hand, we can relate to pain and misery, since we certainly have been there ourselves. On the other hand, we are a little uncomfortable that the individual can’t seem to shake out of his or her malaise and get on with the program – that is, moving ahead in recovery.

Maybe what is lacking is the ability to first have an idea and then to work on a plan to make that idea into something that can be done.

Let’s reminisce for a minute about our own past. How long did it take us when we first entered recovery to even have a positive thought, let alone an idea that we sparked to and motivated us to action? After all, action is what recovery is all about. It isn’t words or thoughts, but deeds that make the difference. Others undoubtedly cut us some slack, recognizing themselves in us as we should be able to recognize ourselves in newcomers today. Our fellow 12-step group members and our sponsor knew that recovery is a matter of solid support and encouragement as much as it is consistent action in working the steps. They didn’t tune us out or fail to offer us suggestions and positive reinforcement for our efforts. They knew that we were fragile and tentative and yearning for the peace of effective sobriety.

Here’s another secret about putting ideas into action. Not all of them will work. We have to be flexible enough to realize that our best endeavors will sometimes turn out to be less than we expected. This doesn’t mean that our actions are a failure, however. Far from it, in fact. We do need to learn what we can about why our actions that sprang from our ideas fell a bit short and figure out what can make it better. In some respects, trying to make ideas work is a bit like traversing a maze. We know there is something at the end of the maze but we may need to hit a few dead-ends before we find the way. If we are persistent and learn from where we have been, we’ll make it. It’s really about as simple as that.

Now, once we have a little experience turning ideas into things we can actually do, we start to feel an increased measure of self-confidence. At last, something we thought of and put together actually worked. It may have even worked out far better than we had anticipated, which adds to our stores of self-esteem. It’s this slow and steady progress that helps ensure our long-term success in recovery. Remember what worked, and do more of that. The more we’re able to brainstorm ideas and turn them into actions we can tackle, the more progress we’ll make in our recovery.

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