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Research Reveals Why People Avoid Taking Positive Action

woman low self-esteemWe live in a world where success and fulfillment come from taking positive actions. Inactivity leads to failure, emptiness and despair.

Interestingly, if there is one thing that many unfulfilled people lack, it is the ability to take action in the direction of their dreams. This may be why personal development gurus – including those is the field of NLP – preach taking action so ardently.

This may also be why the personal coaching industry exists. People pay to be accountable to someone so that they can get themselves to take consistent action.

Why are so many people resistant to taking action to get what they want?

Why don’t many people make confident decisions and just go for it?

A study conducted at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania has discovered new insights into why some people have such a difficult time with making decisions and taking action.

The researchers wanted to study whether neuroticism was more associated with negative or positive actions. Scientists investigated this by examining whether emotions such as anxiety and depression decreased proactive actions.

According to the study, the inactivity experienced by those who suffer from neuroticism is easily triggered by life’s minor frustrations. These frustrations result in symptoms such as anxiety, self-consciousness, irritability, and sadness. Then, people tend to avoid action when facing decisions because they perceive it through the eyes of their negative state.

A mind-boggling discovery…

The researchers discovered that those suffering from this kind of neuroticism don’t view taking action as a positive step. Instead, they have positive attitudes toward inaction. Researchers also believe that teaching people to have a positive attitude toward action may change their behavior.

This is a point worth repeating. In a certain neurotic state, inactivity is perceived as the positive choice. For most people, inactivity is seen as the safe option. In reality, the opposite is true. Taking action is what produces positive results. Inactivity is actually self-deprivation.

Are you depriving yourself?

Self-deprivation is a powerful psychological motive. In a pattern of depriving yourself, NOT getting what you want or need is more attractive than being fulfilled.

For many people, this leads to an all to a familiar yet empty state of being. Feeling empty is no fun, but at least it is not charged with the anxiety that comes with taking action and risking failure and rejection.

Ironically, it is the inaction that guarantees failure.

When you set goals and go for it, there is always an opportunity to succeed and a chance of failure. When you avoid taking action, there is no chance of success and guaranteed failure.

If you really fear failure, why are you embracing it by avoiding action? Why don’t you take the option that allows for a chance at success?

Familiarity with emptiness, failure and deprivation

It turns out that, when it comes right down to it, many of us prefer the self-deprived state because we are so familiar with it. We’re used to it. We don’t like it, but we know it. We’ve lived it for most of our lives. Therefore, it feels safer than massive success and fulfillment.

Nathaniel Branden, the psychologist who mentored under Ayn Rand, had a name for this phenomenon. He called it happiness anxiety. And he explained it me personally. Nathaniel said, “When a state of unhappiness or even despair is all you know, then happiness is often feared. People fear what they do not know and that includes positive states like happiness.”

This self-depriving pattern is nothing other than self-sabotage. In a self-sabotaging pattern, the healthiest option is the one that is feared. The success oriented choice is the one that produces anxiety.

People who are not strangely attracted to self-deprivation actually fear inaction because they do not want to fail. They’d much rather risk the chance of failure by taking action because this is the only chance for success.

If you think you may be in a pattern of self-sabotage in your life, you must watch this free, enlightening video that explains the power of negative psychological attachments. It also shows the way out of their trap.

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Research Reveals Why People Avoid Taking Positive Action

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2014). Research Reveals Why People Avoid Taking Positive Action. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Jun 2014
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