Getting Nailed: Nothing is A Choice

Posted in General Articles on Saturday, 01 October 2011.

by Scott Rozman © 2011

A dog is sitting on a nail on an old porch.  He doesn’t move.  His howling shows the nail is hurting him.  “Not until it hurts enough will he move,” my friend Mario tells me in his story about pain and taking action.  Ironically, Mario has been unhappy in his marriage, in his job, and in his life for over 10 years now.  He says he didn’t want to get married, but did anyway.  He works as an accountant, but says he wants to be a writer or filmmaker.  When I ask him when he’s going to do something about it, he tells me, “Soon. After all, what have I got to lose?” Yet, he doesn’t do anything to change the situation.  It’s frustrating to watch since I know I could help, or someone else could, but also know that no one else really can help until Mario’s ready.  It’s frustrating to watch someone you care about be so unhappy and even more frustrating when they don’t take action or try to change the situation.  Weeks, months, and years pass and he tells me how miserable he is in his marriage, in his job, and in his life, yet he doesn’t move, he stays on the nail and howls.

I don’t really understand this mentality since I work with people who are completely the opposite.  When something is not working in their lives, they take action, whether it’s asking for help or trying something different.  Even when things are working very well, they still seek help or try something different to make their lives even more fulfilling.  I’ve learned that doing nothing is as much a choice as doing something.

Since it’s not my modis operendi either, I’m fascinated by this choice.  If you’re so unhappy or if you want more from life, why not do something about it?  I wonder where this choice comes from.

The most common rationales/rationalizations for this choice seem to be: fear, getting something by doing nothing, and/or the belief that nothing can help – a feeling of self-pity or hopelessness.

If you changed your life and lived the life you really wanted, what would happen?  If you didn’t accomplish what you really wanted after trying, how would you feel?  What are you honestly afraid of?  The unknown?  Success?  Failure?  Whatever the fear and no matter how big it is, if you’re unhappy with your life, why not try something different?  You’re already living in, and coming from a place of fear.  You’re already not where you want to be.  You’re already not happy.

When I talk to people who continuously complain about their lives, but don’t take action I ask them caringly, “What are you getting from staying where you are?”  They are getting something!  Maybe it’s attention.  Maybe it’s an excuse since they don’t believe in themselves or the fact that they can live a different life.  Maybe it’s something else, something personal that they haven’t even considered.  Usually, they respond to my question with, “Nothing,” or “I don’t know.” But, those who want to change their circumstances, can, first by being honest with themselves, and second, by taking some action, such as; working with a career/life coach, seeking help, or going deeper to understand their fear(s).

I repeatedly ask another friend, Rick, why he doesn’t do something, anything, since he says how unhappy he is with his life.  He replies, “What’s the point?” believing no one and nothing can help.  He’s resigned to live an unhappy existence.  He guarantees it and creates it with his thinking (internal) and with his actions, or lack thereof (external).  I guarantee it will continue, too, if he doesn’t change his thoughts and take action.  He doesn’t believe anyone or anything can help and in affect, perpetuates this belief. 

“No one can help,” however, is a cop-out.  It’s an excuse for not taking action, or a fear of what will happen if you do.  It’s a cop-out since you are giving away your power, blaming the world and others, instead of realizing you created the situation and therefore, also can create a new one.  It’s a cop-out since you haven’t even tried to think differently and act differently, or haven’t tried or believed it enough or in a way that works for you.

Once you’re honest with yourself, once you stop blaming others and take responsibility, and once you start thinking and acting differently, then your life will change. Talk with a coach.  Meditate or reflect on what’s holding you back.  Do something, anything, differently.  Until then, realize that doing nothing is also a choice, like sitting and staying on a nail.

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