As far as I’m concerned, the most annoying seven-word phrase in the English language is, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” Sometimes it gets attached to three other words to become the annoying ten-word phrase, “I’m sorry but there’s nothing I can do about it.” As a psychologist, I try not to get angry very much but I do allow myself the luxury of getting annoyed from time to time.
I first remembered hearing that phrase almost three decades ago, when an expensive piece of equipment on my car miraculously malfunctioned shortly after reaching the 36,000-mile mark when my warranty expired. Since the problem obviously developed over time during the warranty period, I could not believe that there wouldn’t be some accommodation made so that I wouldn’t have to pay the full expense for something that would have been taken care of for free less than a month and a few hundred miles earlier. After being advised by front line people and managers in both the service and sales areas that they were sorry but there was nothing they could do about it, I was given an audience with the owner of the dealership. He seemed like a perfectly reasonable man who was genuinely sorry about what happened to my car—but you can guess what he told me: even though he owned the dealership there was nothing he could do about it. In that situation, it was obvious that there was only one person who could do something about it—ME. What I did was resolve to not buy another car from that dealership. My wife and I have purchased at least five new cars since that time—none from that dealership. The profit made on any of the five new car purchases would have easily eclipsed the money that would have been lost by accommodating my complaint.. Since that time I have run into a number of other people who couldn’t do anything about it to right situations that were obviously wrong–including other merchants and health insurance companies who have cheated patients as well as myself. Let me say, however, that I have not found this to be the rule. I have dealt with many people over the years that have found the ability and decency to address problems by doing something about it.
Why am I telling you this? Aside from the fact that I find an occasional rant to be quite cleansing and good for the soul, I believe that too many of us cheat ourselves by wanting to make changes but feeling that there is nothing we can do about it. People use too many “too excuses’ to avoid change. Either they are too old or too sick or too inexperienced or too fat or to thin or too emotional or too embarrassed to try new things. Whether we are talking about a new job or a new hobby or traveling or writing a book or developing a social life or saving money or starting a diet or starting to exercise or getting back into having a social life after the death or divorce of a spouse or partner or taking the first step in changing the relationship with a family member, we can find a “too excuse” to hold us back. Once you’ve defined yourself as being unable to do anything about an unhappy or stuck situation, you’ve created the ground rules that don’t allow change to take place. Just as the car dealer in my example had to have known that there was something that he could do about it, and that there would be consequences for acting impotently, there are also consequences for those of us who think about taking more control of our lives but choose to stay stuck.
Proactive senior citizenship bestows certain privileges on its members. We may not have the time or the money or the health to do everything that we want, but we have the privilege of examining our unfulfilled dreams and asking whether we can still do something about it. Hopefully, our website and future blogs can play a role in helping you make good things happen.