The other day I was talking with a friend about the dangers of doing nothing. He, like many people, is facing some very difficult personal challenges in his life.
“The status quo is really just a comfortable illusion,” I said. “While you think you might be maintaining whatever you’re looking at, what you don’t see is the incremental deterioration going on in front of your eyes.”
I’ve come to fear the status quo – and mainly for what I was sharing with my friend. Over time I began to understand that, regardless of the particular aspect in my life I was looking at, doing nothing was never the best choice. And those times I rationalized avoiding making a decision was the best answer, I quickly discovered myself moving backwards.
I remember the day the painting crew finished changing color of the outside of our home. Gone was the old, oxidized grey paint – now replaced by a beautiful, warm yellow. Also gone were the hundreds of tiny chips in the white paint around the widow casings and the slight variation in color in paint from the sun bleaching one side of the house verses the others.
What I learned right then was my eyes had been playing tricks on me — doing nothing in my life was simply moving backwards in slow motion.
This principle, or the recognizing of the status quo as my enemy, is now an integral part of my life.
From the curb, the old house paint looked fine. No one could see the small cornflake-sized chips of paint peeling from around the upstairs window. Nor could they see how the exterior wall on the west side paled after years of doing battle with the hot summers. But the degradation was there all the same – only appearing in waves too imperceptible for me to recognize on a short-term basis.
To simply do nothing was to support the illusion of status quo’s steady march to the drumbeat of time. To keep the house looking good I’d need to invest in time, money, and effort. Pressure washing would need to be done to keep the grime from slowly eating into the paint; weathered edges around the windows or openings would need to be caulked or touched up on a regular schedule. Simply put, doing nothing would be authorizing the status quo to take the house backwards.
Our individual lives are no different. We might appear healthy in the mirror each morning as we get dressed, but taking a walk around the block or eating more carefully allows us to live a healthier life. The same applies to our career, our finances, or more importantly to our loved one. To maintain the important things in our lives we must make an effort to invest in them. Maybe that means constantly reading about changes in the business world or maybe learning to clip a coupon here and there. Or more importantly, making the effort to demonstrate to those you love how much they mean to you in your daily actions and words. We must move our feet to simply keep up.
My friend is in my prayers. What I hope is that he, too, will recognize that doing nothing is simply the greatest illusion of all time.
– 30 –