Two Things Are Hard. Doing Nothing. Doing Something.

Life is hard. We want to find an easier way, but we struggle with it. Part of the problem is simply this. There may be no easier way. We just have to make a decision about where we are going to put our energy.

In counseling there is the idea that we never really solve our problems. Instead, we keep trading in big problems for ones that are smaller and smaller. We may find ourselves in addiction and fighting for our lives one day. Then, years later, we may find ourselves healthy and busy, wondering how we can manage our time and do all the things we want.

But we are never, really ever totally without problems. We just make them better by the decisions we make.

We are faced with two fundamentally simple choices, do nothing or do something. Unfortunately, neither one may be easy. But each decision will shape the trajectory of our lives. We want our lives to begin an upward spiral, not a downward one.

Doing nothing is a hard.

We usually expect growth and change to be difficult. So, we may be reluctant to begin making new changes. But often the reality is that nothing is more painful than staying in a bad situation, a place where you are stuck or unwanted, or admitting defeat and quitting on your own life.

When we are in a bad situation, we know it. We can feel like we are overburdened, buried and ignored, and suffocating. We feel that, even if we screamed, no one would hear our voice and no one would come to our rescue. We forget who we are. We lose hope and with it we lose the energy to break free.

Doing nothing can come at a high price. One thing is certain, time moves on and we will face the consequences of our choices. We must remember that we cannot avoid it. We can never fail to decide. By doing nothing, we have already made our choice. We do not avoid the consequences; we just sacrifice our power over our own lives.

Doing something is hard.

Unfortunately, there is no free lunch. Doing something is hard too. But it is a labor that lifts us up, validates who we are, and connects us in a meaningful way to the world around us. Doing something is a labor of love. It is the love of life.

Of course, doing something comes at a price too. We have to walk away from the comfort of our own dysfunction. We have to be honest with ourselves, make a firm commitment to our future, and drop excuse-making in favor of problem-solving.

I want to emphasize one point. Doing something does not mean achieving it. It means working towards it.

Let’s imagine two people. One was twenty-years drug free and died. One was drug-free for one day and died. Who died with the most honor and self-purpose? Neither one. They each have the same. Each made a decision, committed to it, and then committed to the work to achieve it.

It is not important if we achieve the goal, only that we sincerely work towards it. Like the saying goes, it is not important if we get to the top of our mountain, only that we climb it well.

In the end, it is up to us. We are the captains of our ship, the caretakers of our soul, and only we decide on what terms we will live our lives. I hope we all choose wisely.

James McGinley

James McGinley

James E. McGinley, PhD, is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, Certified Life Coach, and adjunct professor teaching counseling psychology at major universities for over 14 years. He was trained in Positive Psychology by some of the leading researchers in the field, including Dr. Martin Seligman, the originator of Learned Helplessness Theory. He is the author of six books covering topics such as coping, stress management, and cross-cultural adjustment, several research monographs, and over a dozen journal articles. For more insights from his blog and access to his books visit

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