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How to Overcome Passivity

how to overcome passivity“He who hesitates is lost.”

This well-worn adage applies to Cautious Charlie clutching the steering wheel. If you, like Cautious Charlie, are gripped with hesitation, you aren’t driving your life. Passivity is your destination.

The world, once teeming with possibilities, closes. And so do you. Ignoring text messages and phone calls from loved ones, you retreat into self-imposed isolation. While you were once determined, passivity drains you of your trademark vigor.

When life becomes overwhelming, your inclination is to retreat. You react, watching the world blur past you at breakneck speed. The past is scary; the future is scarier. As colleagues scale the next milestone, your question your decision-making. Conflating agreeableness and passivity, you acquiesce to others. They dictate your time, your interests, and, ultimately, your life.

As you sink into a self-created abyss, remember that passivity is more ephemeral than endless. When strong and confident, you are emboldened. You make concrete plans and follow through with decisive actions. You are poised, radiating charisma and a knowing self-awareness.

Passivity is a learned behavior, a fruitless, counterproductive response to decisiveness. Life demands bold. Here are steps to help reclaim your life:

  • Examine your medication
    Medication can be a panacea. But in my experience, medication’s side effects can be a double-edged sword. Medication can sap willpower, depriving you of life’s richness.
  • Get outside
    The weather can be scalding or snowing. It doesn’t matter. Your apartment imprisons you and your television and iPad are handcuffs. When stepping outside, the fresh air and cackling buzz enlivens. And if it doesn’t rejuvenate, it at least propels you out of your numbing routine.
  • Change your routine.
    Passivity is more than a dull acquiescence; it is a lifeless monotony. You frequent the same stale restaurants and listen to the same glib conversations among casual acquaintances. Try something different. Perhaps this weekend features an intriguing speaker on campus and a singles event at a trendy restaurant?
  • Make a list of your strengths 
    You are a talented individual filled with positive attributes. How do I know? Well, in your throes of self-loathing, ask your loved ones and close friends how they perceive you. The answers will surprise you and, I suspect, embolden you.

For many of us, our perceptions often are not rooted in reality. We disparage personal failings as irredeemable character flaws; we decry how “easy” personal or professional success appears for contemporaries; we frame decisions based on feelings, not facts. Family and friends adopt a more measured approach. While you are busily disparaging yourself, family and friends observe strengths that your untrained, critical eye misses or dismisses.

As for those imperfections, don’t passively lament them. Actively work to correct them. Remember that passivity is a learned behavior and you can unlearn it. Act, not react. Strive, not settle. Be, not bemoan.

Directions are only as good as their driver. If you are lost, chart your own destination. And as you embark on the journey, wave at our friend, Cautious Charlie, hunched over the steering wheel staring at a coffee-stained map.

Dean Drobot/Bigstock

How to Overcome Passivity


Matthew Loeb

Matthew Loeb, a Seattle-based attorney, is a mental health advocate. You can contact him at [email protected]


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APA Reference
Loeb, M. (2018). How to Overcome Passivity. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 19, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-overcome-passivity/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.