Bet you’ve heard this one before: “Enough thinking! We need action!”

Such statements have always perplexed me. Thinking IS action. Science tells us that our brain uses up lots of calories when we are thinking. So clearly work of some kind is going on.

I’ve been curious for a long time about the tension between thinking and action. Yep, thinking work! Like the great philosopher – Winnie the Pooh: I sometimes ‘sits and thinks’ … and imagine how people can make a better life for others and themselves.

I’ve been collecting quotes from across the ages about thinking and action. They take different points of view on this. The quotes represent the thoughts of others – distilled bits of knowledge that have survived beyond the lives of those who did the thinking.

We need thinkers.

Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
~John F. Kennedy

If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.
~ George Patton

Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.
~ Thomas Carlyle

Which isn’t to say ONLY thinking has value – though it does tend to get a bad reputation. So for some balance …

Thought is useful when it motivates action and a hindrance when it substitutes for action.
~ Bill Raeder

Unless a capacity for thinking be accompanied by a capacity for action, a superior man exists in torture.
~ Benedetto Croce

Thinking work isn’t easy. People who create things understand this. Much action starts out first as a thought.

First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.
~ Napoleon Hill

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.
~ Henry Ford

Thinking work has value. It’s the genesis of new and original things. And the world needs that, I’m sure you would agree.

Thought is action in rehearsal.
~ William Zinsser

If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.
~ Albert Einstein

It can be the shortcut to learning.

A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Those who know how to think need no teachers.
~ Mahatma Gandhi

There’s thinking, and there’s “thinking”!

Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
~ William James

And there’s different kinds of thinking. Like critical thinking, structured thinking, logical thinking, creative thinking … even dreaming!

What is now proved, was once only imagined.
~ William Blake

Creative thinking may mean simply the realization that there’s no particular virtue in doing things the way they always have been done.
~ Rudolf Flesch

Give yourself the time to dream because logic will get you from A to B; imagination will take you anywhere.
~ Albert Einstein

So how do you think? I mean, do the act of thinking.
One key ingredient is time – that is temporal space (aka time) in which thought can be contemplated and new thought can emerge.

Others inspire us, information feeds us, practice improves our performance, but we need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth original answers.
~ Ester Buchholz

From word to deed is a great space.
~ French Proverb

Another useful ingredient is writing, placing your thoughts somewhere outside your head where they can be further contemplated as they are crystalised into language.

The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.
~ Norbet Platt

When you write things down, they sometimes take you places you hadn’t planned.
~ Melanie Benjamin

You need the belief that your thoughts can be valuable. Even the things that you might hesitate to say out loud to another person.

You’ll increase your creative potential once you begin to value your own thoughts.
~ Doug Hall

Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.
~ Thomas S. Szasz

Want to live an intentional life? I think this thinker says it best:

I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Has this article got you thinking? Then my work is done!


Helen Palmer is Founder and Team Development Facilitator at Questo. Like Winnie the Pooh, she ‘sits and thinks’ … and imagines how people can make a better life for others and themselves. She likes to share those thoughts with the possibility that they inspire and initiate meaningful change.


(Amended) Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

Share with others FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

No responses yet

Leave a Reply