When Doing Nothing Is a Decision

When Doing Nothing Is a Decision

Last update: 09 January, 2016

Sometimes we try to work things out by following a path that only makes us stumble over the same stone again and again. And sometimes, we grow impatient in wanting to find an answer to a problem that’s making us suffer.

If all your attempts have been unsuccessful or have even worsened the problem, it may be best to stop trying. Even for a little while, sometimes doing nothing is the best. It is a decision.

“When you have to make a decision and do not make it,  that is in itself a decision”

-William James-

It’s not due to lack of interest or because we have given up or have failed, but because no longer trying is a different solution, a twist, an alternative. Nor does it mean we are counting on the passing of time to solve all our problems. Doing nothing does not mean giving up on everything you’ve achieved. It’s a journey that contributes to our learning.

Taking ourselves away from what is harming us and undermining our self-esteem is only going to improve our emotional state. It is a smart way to move away from what is hurting us.


When doing nothing is the best choice

There are many types of problems and each one requires a different solution. It would be impossible to apply one rule generally to all matters of life. Not doing anything is not the same as inactivity, laziness or disinterest: the objective is to improve a situation.

Here are some examples where doing nothing is a conscious decision:

A small child knows that his tantrums get our attention. Therefore we ignore his desperate call again and he repeats the same strategy to get what he’s asking for. And if we don’t do anything? And if we calmly ignore his cry for attention and then later explain that his strategy does not work?

With the simple act of not tending to his cry, we stop reinforcing his behavior. This results in reducing the probability that this attitude as a way of getting something will be repeated in the future. Therefore it is not that we are doing nothing, we are being strategist and not nibbling at the bait.

A friend of ours makes us responsible for her discomfort. We have tried to help as best we could and spent our time trying to take care of the situation. She still blames us for not being there for her in the way she would have liked.

It’s normal to go through bad times in life and understand that a person can act unfairly and we may empathize with her. But should we justify this personal attack?

When we disappoint someone we love, it usually makes us feel bad. But we cannot be responsible for not being where the person who has the problem would have liked us to be at that time and moment.

At the end of the day, we cannot read the minds of others, nor are we superheroes who can go running every time someone else is feeling down. We must be there, of course, but not at all cost or under every circumstance.


Another example: you and another person don’ t stop arguing. At each new attempt the situation worsens and there seems be no light to to shine on a good outcome.

In that case, if you’ve already tried everything, perhaps the best thing would be to let it be for a period of time. Do nothing, which in turn is already doing something.

Of course in this case it is best to openly inform the other party. Try to make him or her understand that it is preferable to give a little space rather than add to the problem.

When we take time to improve our emotional state and walk away from a source of suffering, we can see more clearly.We can better analyze conflicting situations and make better decisions away from the stress which continues to get worse. And no, we are not being selfish about it. Knowing when to move away and when to approach is the key to any lasting relationship

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.