The Discipline of Action

Author: Walter Basnight, Secondary Learning Coach for the American International School Chennai, India
and member of the Thinking Collaborative Futures Team

Efficacy has been an important part of my success as a new coach. In support of my increased efficacy, I have leaned on the work of Ryan Holiday, specifically his thoughts in The Obstacle Is The Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage. The book espouses Stoic Philosophy, encouraging us to view obstacles as opportunities. I face obstacles all the time, from teachers feeling they don’t have enough time to a lack of understanding of my role. As Holiday points out, overcoming such obstacles requires us to consider Perception, Action and Will in ourselves and in others.

The Discipline of Action is about moving forward step-by-step, action-by-action with persistence and flexibility in the interest of our goals. Applying ourselves with gusto and creativity to embrace the obstacle before us is what will make us stronger when facing next obstacle with:
● energy
● persistence
● a coherent and deliberate process
● iteration and resilience
● pragmatism
● strategic vision
● craftiness and savvy
● and an eye for opportunity and pivotal moments

As a new coach, I thought that it was enough to introduce myself at the beginning of the year to the staff and explain my role. This would prompt teachers to knock at my door. Yet, this was not the case. I grossly underestimated the level of action it would require of me to develop a desire for coaching and to support the development of a culture of coaching. I had the know how to coach; I had to call upon the courage to act – to knock on doors. There were rejections, but my persistence led to an opening of doors and minds. From there momentum built and I began to move beyond episodic coaching sessions to more meaningful coaching cycles. The Discipline of Action is about building a tolerance for difficulties, looking for possibilities and settling in for the long haul.

As Holiday reminds us, “anyone in pursuit of a goal comes face-to-face with failure time and time again. Sometimes, no amount of planning, no about of thinking – no matter how hard we try or patiently we persist – will change the fact that some things just aren’t going to work.” (Holiday, 124) This is where the Discipline of the Will must be cultivated.

Next week I will explore the Discipline of the Will.

What new actions might you try this week to further a goal?
Where might you have the opportunity to practice the Discipline of Action?