I've been thinking recently about what leads to action. What determines the actions we make? Most people I think would say simply the decision to do something. But if you think about this, you would see that this is not true. Have you ever decided to do something, and then just never got around to it? I know I have done this many times even when I honestly thought it was a good thing and really wanted to do it. That proves for me at least that decision does not necessarily lead to action.
When I read this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer I realized the answer:
“We have spent too much time in thinking, supposing that if we weigh in advance the possibilities of any action, it will happen automatically. We have learnt, rather too late, that action comes, not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility. For thought and action will enter on a new relationship; your thinking will be confined to your responsibilities in action.”
This quote has given me a new understanding of how we choose our actions. We have no natural impulse toward any one action, because goodness can exist in any course of action. When we make a decision to do something we are merely saying "I see goodness in this course of action." This same thing can be said of just about any action that we make. Like the quote says, action comes only when we choose to accept the responsibility that comes with that action. Of course we think there are a lot of things that would be good to do; the question is what are we willing to accept responsibility for. That is what we must answer before we can change our behavior.