Thinking vs Doing

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It really really bothers me when some people casually preach about doing, not thinking.

What does it even mean? Isn’t thinking too, a kind of a task, a work, an action, a deed?

What about those instances where people give us a quap because we did something without properly thinking things through?

What is the difference? More importantly, how do you draw a line? Is there even a boundary? Or is this a quip some sot uttered some centuries ago which people have taken for divine commandment which has somehow been humanity’s primary strategy and hence been responsible for humanity’s fate?

First of all, we humans are thinking animals. While a dog sniffs, we think!

Every single moment of our lives we have those neurons in our heads buzzing and sending electric and chemical signals here and there. Unlike in any other creature or thing.

The existence of Millions and millions of neurons have allowed us humans to do this thing called thinking, which is nothing but identifying, questioning and inferring from the Hobbesian ‘decaying senses’. OR, we can take a definition from this if we like:

It feels instantaneous, but how long does it really take to think a thought? (

This facility we use everywhere in everything. Our existence and success is based on this ability. It is what has made us what we are. How can such a thing be demeaned?

Since doing is synonymous to working, with only a miserly linguistic repercussion, we can start using the term work now on for doing.

Physics defines work as something that has been done when a force acts upon an object to cause a displacement.

With this logic it is apparent that our brains are constantly working as they host a crazy number of electrochemical displacements every minute and that too at a crazy speed. Since brains do such work and we own the brain, we never not-work. We all are constantly working, doing, acting. What were those people talking about?!

How can those people talk about doing and not thinking, when we are constantly doing and not thinking?

If things have been taken too literally in this one, we need to come up with a relevant definition of displacement.

Physics defines it as — the extent of an objects change in position. Distance versus Displacement (

Since we are talking about thoughts, let’s see what psychology has to say about displacement:

Displacement is the transfer of feelings or behavior from their original object to another person or thing. APA Dictionary of Psychology

Before we get into taking things literally with the physics definition of displacement, let us see how physics’ definition of work helps us define work in psychological terms:

Work therefore, is something that has been done when a force acts upon an object to cause a transfer of feelings or behavior from their original object to another person or thing.

Now we’re talking!

If we are to take only physics’ definition of work and displacement in order to understand the differences between thinking and working, by virtue of physics’ scope, we have to say that work is done only when there is some kind of physical proof of it.

We have already said that the brain does a lot of work and have proved it (hopefully). But we have also said that we won’t be taking things so stupidly literally, so let’s move on.

Physics’ definition of work when applied to our lives, creates a few paradox:

  • If we are said to be working only when there is some kind of physical proof of it then, if I just rock to and fro in my chair all day, does it mean I am working?

and there’s another:

  • Suppose a genius cosmologist spends her entire life thinking about the origins of Cosmos. One day she notices an amazingly simple mathematical relation that explains it all. But unfortunately she gets killed in a car accident before even noting it down. Does it mean she did no work?

But we all know how absurd this is! I clearly am not doing anything at all by rocking in my chair all day while the genius cosmologist did a great amount of work even if she didn’t drop an ink.

Would those people who say don’t think, act be proud of me? Would they frown at our cosmologist?

(If they would then I don’t think they are worth listening to. But for now let’s keep the reverence going and pretend they have provided us with wisdom which we are trying to decode).

If we are to define work physically then we surely need to dust-off our Das Capital copies!

I don’t think physics too is going to help us understand this conflict. It has failed just as Neuroscience.

Therefore, let’s move to psychology.

We had used Physics + Psychology to define Work as something that has been done when a force acts upon an object to cause a transfer of feelings or behavior from their original object to another person or thing.

We all know, thanks to neuroscience, what those forces and objects are, therefore, we don’t need to keep mentioning it. We can now define work as:

Work as a transfer of feelings or behavior from their original object to another person or thing.

As per this definition, whenever we emotionally or behaviorally impact other people or creatures, we work.

Now this helps us distinguish thoughts and acts!

We haven’t worked merely by thinking or rocking to and fro because we haven’t impacted other people or creatures!

But hold on a second!

I remain silent and think while the lecturer has clearly asked me to stand up because he wants me to answer something — does it mean I worked?

If I rock to-and-fro in my chair questioning to myself why I have no money, while my boss asks me to go get her a cup of coffee — does it mean I worked?

I, the prime minister of Nepal talked with various ministers and addressed the public each day for a year about developing the country, but nothing happened — does it mean I worked?

I have clearly impacted the lecturer, my boss and public emotionally and behaviorally!

What about our cosmologist? She still hasn’t done any work???!!!

This is going nowhere!




we can find something in between. Something that will join all these things together. A word, a sentence perhaps!

Minutes later:

I went around on the internet and ‘worked’ by trying really hard to remember every single word that would fit this context. I worked and worked and worked and worked and then found the word:


Yesss…it’s not about neurological work-done or physical or psychological, what those gurus were saying was about substantial works.

Since we cannot not-work (as proved earlier), and since physical and psychological stupidities can’t be counted as works when something as grand as cosmological thinking doesn’t qualify; We have to include this term: Substantial.

Physical and Psychological substantial works!

Immediately it all makes sense now:

  • I did no work by rocking around because it wasn’t anything substantial
  • The cosmologist worked because she did something substantial in her life, firstly by spending it in the pursuit of knowledge and secondly, by minding her own business and not troubling the rest of the world by pursuing billionaire-ambitions.
  • I worked by remaining silent and thinking while the lecturer asked me to speak up because he was an asshole and deserved it.
  • Same with my boss.
  • I, the Prime Minister, did no work because…a. I talked useless things with useless people and b. because I didn’t do what I said I would. (By Saying I would do something, I set myself up for the substantial. Same is with desiring and not willing. We set ourselves up for the substantial when we desire something, which if we do not convert into will or the task means nothing).

Linguistically it fits well, But what the hell IS substantial?

substantial (adj.)

mid-14c., “ample, sizeable,” from Old French substantiel (13c.) and directly from Latin substantialis “having substance or reality, material,” in Late Latin “pertaining to the substance or essence,” from substantia “being, essence, material” (see substance). Meaning “existing, having real existence” is from late 14c. Meaning “involving an essential part or point” is early 15c. Related: Substantially.

(Source: substantial | Origin and meaning of substantial by Online Etymology Dictionary (

See…now we are talking:

  • having substance or reality, material
  • pertaining to the substance or essence
  • existing, having real existence
  • involving an essential part or point

What are — substance, reality, material, essence, existence, real-existence?

And with this we enter the domain of the almighty PHILOSOPHY.

These terms and the pursuit of their meanings take us into places where we question the exact types of question we have been questioning. There we question things such as — what is thought, thinking, work, working, what we ought to do, life, meaning, knowledge, existence, substance, reality, material, spirit, essence, existence, real-existence, imaginary existence, etc.


It is about understanding what is to be done by thinking to do that which is understood.

It is where thought and deed becomes one, because they were always one.

I think those people who said — don’t think, act should have actually said — don’t think and do unsubstantial things, think and do substantial things!




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