The Pain of Action VS the Pain of Inaction

Mar 9 '22 • Written by Yassen Shopov
📖 10 minute read

Often in life situations, we end up as one of two characters - Hamlet or Macbeth.

There are many differences between the two Shakespearean characters, but the main one is in the way they approach action and inaction. It is much more common for Hamlet to embrace inactio - he sits around, thinking, contemplating, analysing the situation, and inevitably he lets his lack of motion lead to his very end.

It is the exact opposite that pushes Macbeth towards a path of destruction and self-destruction. He acts on his emotions, rarely listening to rationale outside of his own, and lets his intuition excuse all his misdeeds.

In the end, as is the case with most extremities, they both end up in shambles, much worse than they started.

And they serve to show us an important lesson. Both action and inaction could lead us to experience pain of some kind. Yes, the pain we experience is different than that of Hamlet or Macbeth (and thankfully). But it is still pain nonetheless, and as most things in life, is kinda inevitable.

Now it is a matter of choice when it comes to us - do we choose the pain of action or the pain of inaction?

The Pain of Action

This is the type of pain that is more inevitable when it comes to life.

We have all made decisions, and there’s nobody that made only the right ones. We all carry some amount of guilt, regret, second thoughts. And this pushes us to feel hesitant when it comes to all future actions. Analysis paralysis is a common phenomenon for a reason - when we are too busy stressing out over a task, overthinking it, instead of sitting down and doing it.

Many people get discouraged from doing stuff wrong, and this is the reason why the people who are good at something naturally decrease in number the harder it gets. Otherwise, everybody would be a master of some craft, or a few.

And still, even if actively doin something could lead you to some small amount of pain, it is still better than the pain of inaction because you could…

Gain Energy from Activities

Yup, you heard me right. Things like studying, exercising hard at the gym, or socialising when you don’t really feel all that extraverted can and will give you more energy than they consume.

So to say, they cost some energy in the present moment. You need to hype yourself up, actually relocate sometimes, and spend some time away from your comfort zone. But I have noticed, at least in my experience, that those small victories every day can build up in the form of an increased self-confidence. Your self-discipline goes up, as well as your perceived self-worth. It almost feels like you absorbed the energy you exhausted in order to do those activities in the first place.

The Pain of Inaction

Now, this is the type of pain that most people prefer to cope with on a daily basis. It is a much more acceptable form of pain, and it’s not out of reach. Yeah, you could embarrass yourself on a night out with friends or get incredibly tired after each of those activities.

But you would think to yourself - if it doesn’t bring me almost instant gratification, why bother? The consumerism culture we live in puts “fast” and “easy” on a pedestal. If something is just out of reach, it becomes almost impossible to get due to our low attention spans, focus, and energy.

Optimistic Nihilism

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