Monthly Archives: November 2005

Sometimes Doing Nothing is Best

A few weeks ago I had lunch with a colleague. We talked about our families and how there was one situation with a child who was going in a direction not too desirable. It ended up that what helped most was actually withholding help, after giving all types of help in the past.
I cannot help but think deeply on this concept, that sometimes you help more by actually not doing anything.
In our culture, we associate helping with the physical act of doing something. You buy a gift, you lend someone money, you hold a door open for an old lady. When disaster hits somewhere, like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, we immediately think of donating money, or going down there ourselves and helping with the effort.
There is nothing wrong with the above, as long as it’s an appropriate response of course.
But what I’m getting at, is that by helping we actually are focused so much on the act of doing something that we often forget that there is yet another powerful way of helping. And that, sometimes, is doing nothing. Don’t lend money. Don’t give a gift. Don’t do anything.
Sometimes it’s painful to not do anything. It could be a family member in need. Or even your child. You want to provide for them and in probably most cases doing something as help probably is the right thing to do.
But sometimes, it’s not. Because you could be reinforcing some behavior that doesn’t allow them to grow. Consider raising a child who always gets everything they want. They never feel hungry to work for something. They always think it’s there for them. Then they feel entitled. They think the world always has something for them. And they develop bad habits because they’ve never worked a day in their life, or known what it’s like to see a goal and know that they’ll have to work to get there. So they never get a job. They live exorbitant lifestyles. They know no commitment because they don’t have to commit; they get everything they want without working for it.
So we love them, our children. We want to provide for them as parents. But in raising my own child, I am acutely aware of what I do in my relationship with her. Because I see every step I take as a learning experience for her. So, I resist the temptation to buy everything they want. I don’t give them everything. They need to know limits and how the real value of what they do get. As they become adults, then they become more mature in their view of the world and how they give, and how they receive things from it.
This also applies to your parents, your aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters, friends, everybody. Sometimes these people we care for so much around us are getting too much help. And then finally when we realize that what we are doing isn’t helping and stop the physical act of giving as help, we stop doing and do nothing instead. Depending on the receiver of “nothing”, it’s sometimes really hard. They get defensive. They call you four letter words. They tell your friends that you suck. They don’t talk to you.
I can only say that sometimes when we help, we need to focus on the end result. And sometimes that end result may not include you in that relationship anymore, or at least for a long period of time. It can hurt, but if we focus on the end result, we can remember that the person now finally has a chance to grow beyond where they are now and take heart in that. But who knows, in the future your paths may cross again…

Turning 40

A little while ago I turned 40.
Somebody asked me, “Don’t you wish you were 20? Aren’t you freaking out?”
What a funny question for me.
I think that most people wish they were younger. Look at the popularity of Botox treatments and plastic surgery. Everybody strives to make themselves recapture some magic of youth.
What is this “magic of youth”?
The way you look? The way you feel? I must listen to teeny bopper bands and wear fashions from stores that make me look like a surfer dude, with baggy pants and ghetto sneakers?
I look at myself now and when I was 20. I am in much better health now, and have done things physically that I had no chance of doing when I was 20, like triathlons, ironmans and marathons. I have some advantage in genetics, so I could pass for 10 years younger if I wanted to. I have much more experience, emotional intelligence, better understanding and usage of my creativity. I communicate better and I have more skills. I have accomplished so much in my career that most people my age haven’t even gotten close.
Essentially, I am better now at 40 than I was at 20.
Do I wish I was 20?
Nope. Not me.