Ideas / Leadership / Publishing / Writing / December 17, 2012

Why Idealism Needs Pragmatism

I like to think in the big picture, to aim at the idealistic end. Envisioning creative results and beautiful production is downright fun. However, one of the more convicting things I have observed in my own life is that “idealism” is often just a prettied up way of saying “laziness,” or maybe “fear.” What I mean is that often idealism is a façade for not wanting to do the hard work it takes to fulfill a vision. It is easy to stick to the “big picture” stuff, the vision, the ideals. Doing the work is much harder.

It is easier to talk about what book I might like to write than to actually write it.

It is easier to envision publishing and marketing best-sellers than to figure out all it entails and then doing it.

It is easier to read and converse about a healthier marriage than to make the changes necessary for it to happen.

It is easier to talk about “if I was boss” than to work hard enough for long enough to become the boss.

It’s easier to make a plan than to implement it and to have a good idea than to make one happen.

All of these easy actions can be done in the name of idealism, the big picture. But they lead to nothing. The big picture remains but a description of what might be until pragmatic action is taken to make it real. It is the nitty gritty work, the writing, researching, examining, changing, persevering, and doing that makes ideals happen. Idealism is vacuous without pragmatism giving it actuality.

The question I am learning to ask is “What will this idea take?” The answer to that question is the work to be done to make the dream happen. With that question idealism meets pragmatism and becomes realism. 

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