Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Do not confuse action with initiative?

I had gone with my niece to a girl’s hostel for finding accommodation. She had got admissions to JJ School of Arts. But when we met the concerned clerk in the girls hostel, she told us about the 500 odd applications received for 80 odd vacancies, how the process has happened two months back and so on. As we were talking to some of the persons in the hostel, we realized that getting accommodation in a girl’s hostel is not easy due to the constraints of budget, location preferences and other criteria.

But while moving out from the hostel, the clerk women gave us a list of ‘hostel addresses’ where we can find accommodation. We naturally wrote down all the addresses. Some of the addresses had telephone numbers. As soon as we reached the nearby local station, my niece wanted to go to all those addresses and start the search. I told her that these addresses may not represent the true ‘reality’, and they were given to the girl-applicants to give them hope and reduce their ‘anxiety’, instead of really helping them. Keeping an updated list of girl’s hostel is not the responsibility of that hostel, neither does the clerk women happen to be ‘part’ of a system which helps her get that information.

My niece however said that ‘we have to do something’ to make things happen. We cannot just go home and expect to get a hostel. Given her anxiety, any action was good for her, than not doing anything. This is a common pitfall of all the students (and even executives). Whenever they are anxious, they act. They confuse ‘action’ with ‘initiative’.

We therefore went to the first address recommended by the clerk women. We managed to ‘unscramble’ the address and reach the place in an hour and half. We climbed four stairs to the top of a building. We found that the hostel was boy’s hostel. We were shocked. The effort of reaching the place and the eventual outcome punctured all our enthusiasm. Instead of searching for another place, we headed homewards. This is how ‘any Action’ can also result into ‘failed result’, instead of intended result.

As my father used to say, ‘swinging arms’ alone does not constitute swimming. Coordinated action of arms can take you from one position to another position in water. The same is true with any action in life. ‘Coordinated action’ is necessary to produce result. Unfettered action can help us ‘release’ our anxiety, but is useless in producing any result. And action is not equal to initiative.

It would have been far more productive to sit with the list, call few of the available phone numbers, ask intelligent questions to them, and then expend energy on going to select places based on the received information. Smart action produces results better than uncontrolled action. It is far more important to control our anxieties and channelise the nervous energy into productive action, than promptly responding to the nervous energy.

I also advice parents about ‘smart action’ to seek counsel as to what their child should do in the holidays. Every parent wants to send their children in the program for dancing, acting or other courses. A course in computers has become a most popular course now a day. All these courses invite lot of action and help a child until VI-VII class to channelise energy in a specific direction. But after VIIIth class, parents must understand their child’s liking, potential abilities, and their resources to channelise their energies in ‘productive avenues’. Just action for the sake of action is not going to help their child find the right things to do in their lives.

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