The Paradox Of Action

Last updated on November 10, 2021

One of the biggest fears people have about doing The Work of Byron Katie is that it will make you stop caring about things. You won’t care when bad things happen. You won’t care if you’re successful, or healthy, or not.

The fear is that The Work will make you lose interest in the world.

It will cause you to become complacent. Sitting like a blob, with the word, “whatever,” written across your forehead.

I’ve Had That Thought Sometimes


Because I think that if I question my motives for doing something I will no longer want do it. I’ll have no reason, no motivation to do it.

For example, I’m working on building my business as a facilitator these days. And getting the word out there is a part of it.

And That Takes Action

If I don’t tell people about the services I offer, nothing happens. And if I mess around doing The Work on concepts like, “I want more paying clients,” the fear is that I’ll take away my motivation to reach out and find them. I’ll shoot myself in the foot.

But interestingly, I’ve found the opposite to be true.

I did work this concept a couple of weeks ago. And, while it’s true that the motivation was reduced, my activity has actually increased.

Strange, Huh?

It’s logical that if I hold onto the thought, “I want more paying clients,” I’ll soon do everything I need to do find them.

But there’s something else going on. When I believe the thought, “I want more paying clients,” there is a desperation in my attitude. There’s a desire to take, not give.

And that creates subtle guilt in me, that holds me back from asking for what I want. I don’t want to be a taker. So I shut up. I hide. I don’t reach out.

And when I do force myself to reach out, it’s not well received because a large percentage of me is embarrassed to reveal that motive.

But By Questioning My Motive, I Got Freed-Up

When I turned the thought around and found examples of how “I don’t want more paying clients,” the stickiness of that motive went away. And so did the desperation. The dollar signs in my eyes evaporated.

But interestingly, the action didn’t stop. It’s like a hungry man simply going and getting something to eat. He’s not desperate. But he’s not ignoring his stomach either.

Action Is A Strange Bird

If you do it with a motive, it gets confusing and can become counterproductive. If you have no motive, you’d think you’d just sit idle. But I found that when I questioned my motive, it didn’t make me stop going for what I wanted.

It’s like I want it and don’t care at the same time. This is the paradox of action for me.

In fact, I’ve been more productive these past two weeks than I have in a long, long time. Go figure. Action without a motive turns out to simply be action without guilt. Which is more powerful by far.

Have a great week,

About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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