I can be happier by avoiding life's difficulties, unpleasantness, and responsibilities.

Do you think that you can be happier just drifting through life with only superficial commitments; or that you could not stand losing anything important to you, so you must avoid becoming committed to anything? Your avoidance is probably based on discomfort-intolerance. You see that taking responsibility and confronting unpleasant situations is uncomfortable (which it usually is), but irrationally regard that discomfort as 'awful', 'unbearable', and tell yourself that you must avoid it at all costs.

The problems of avoidance

Avoidance is only easier in the short term - it usually creates greater problems later on:

  • Avoiding decisions or action maintains tension and leaves problems unsolved.
  • Action and persistence are needed to break unwanted patterns of behaviour and achieve personal change.
  • A life of superficial involvement leads to boredom and dissatisfaction.
  • Commitment is required for confidence to develop. You don’t, for example, develop confidence in playing a musical instrument unless you commit yourself to practising with it.


Taking responsibility for your emotions and behaviours lays the basis for taking control over your life and committing yourself to action and involvement.

  • Actively pursuing your goals, rather than waiting and dreaming.
  • Choosing to work at managing stress, developing your potential, and changing things you dislike, rather than just drifting along or expecting a miracle to occur.

There are two elements to commitment:

  1. Perseverance. The ability to bind yourself emotionally and intellectually to courses of action. This involves a willingness to do the necessary work (and tolerate the discomfort involved) in personal change and goal-achievement.
  2. Deep involvement. The ability to enjoy and become absorbed in (but not addicted to) other people, activities and interests as ends in themselves - where you get pleasure from the doing, irrespective of the final result. This may include such areas as work, sports, hobbies, creative activities, and the world of ideas.

If carried too far, commitment can become obsession. Don’t get so involved with one or a few things that other areas of your life suffer. Avoid, for example, allowing work to stop you from any recreational activity, or recreation to leave no time for relationships.

Developing a committed approach to life

Increase your commitment by making a decision now to develop one new interest in your life in which you will get absorbed. Commit yourself to taking some steps toward it over the next week or so. Feel uncomfortable? Use rational self-analysis and imagery to cope with the feelings involved.

Start confronting the things you have been avoiding. Make the appointment with your doctor or dentist, sign up for that exercise programme, give up smoking — or whatever it is you have been putting off. Again, use rational self-analysis and imagery to cope with any discomfort involved.

Begin by making a list of avoided situations. Decide which to work on first. Next, carry out a rational self-analysis. This will prepare you, by reducing your anxiety and giving you new, rational beliefs to use when you are in the situation. When writing down your beliefs, use ‘What if’ questions to identify the worst possible outcomes you can foresee and how you would deal with them. For example, ‘What if I enter the situation? What will happen, what will I feel, and what will be the result?’ Get rid of any ideas that you must cope perfectly or avoid looking foolish.

Other helpful resources

Links within this programme

Further reading

  • Dryden, Windy & Gordon, Jack, Beating the Comfort Trap, Sheldon Press, London, 1993.
  • Hauck, Paul. How To Do What You Want To Do. Sheldon Press, London, 1976.


From avoidance to involvement

Confronting life's problems becomes easier when you change your thinking about them. Here is a new belief to help you do this:

Avoiding problems is only easier in the short term — putting things off can make them worse later on. It also gives me more time to worry about them!