Inaction – The Hardest Thing to Do: Action Bias.

How Jumping the Gun isn’t good for our mental health.

We’ve all been there: intervened in an argument between two friends, jumped at the chance to offer some advice, although we really have no idea what the other person is going through, or accepted a business deal with a client before gathering all the necessary information you need before making a final decision. We just can’t stand waiting or don’t want to appear as though we are inactive or incompetent – it is far better to do something than to do nothing at all, right?

What is an Action Bias?

Action bias is when we’d rather do something, anything, even if it’s risky, rather than feel uncomfortably. This can lead to us making the wrong decision and add stress unnecessarily.

But what happens if we react before we reflect? Do we even know what our friends are arguing about? Or if we make impulsive decisions because we fear uncertainty more than consequence? But what happens when looking active or busy actually achieves nothing at all? Waiting and patience seem to be a fool’s game. The absence of action can leave us feeling helpless, nervous, agitated up to the point of irritability. Anyone who has waited for an important email, text, or call can confirm that it’s the worst. And yet, waiting is often the best we can do at that given time.

How to Handle action bias

There are a few ways with dealing with an action bias, and it’s the way you treat above situations habitually:

Beneficial: Stopping ourselves from taking harmful and unnecessary action

Less beneficial: Distracting ourselves with something harmless

Non-beneficial: Jumping into action and disregarding potential consequences

There is a time when circumstances require you to take immediate action – sometimes our instinct may act as our superpower – and a time to think before we act, even if it means looking less impressive or feeling a little uncomfortable once in a while. Waiting, and even sitting with the uncomfortable feeling, can be beneficial for our wellbeing and understanding of our needs. If the text you’re waiting for unearths a mountain of self-doubt, loss anxiety, and more, it’s a strong indication that there is an opportunity to heal and grow. Maybe now is this time to face your relationship trauma?

This week’s challenge: 

The next time you feel the urge to choose action over reflection, try to take a moment to consider all your options. If you struggle with staying inactive, or feel external pressure to do something, start with something small. It’s ok to want to achieve immediate results, it’s only human. Just make sure you’re not making unnecessary decisions without really thinking them through.

Have a great week, Lodestar!

Silja Litvin

Psychologist and Founder of PsycApps

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