Niagara Falls Syndrome: The Cost of Being Passive

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What is Niagara Falls Syndrome? Why do so many people lose control over their lives? 

Niagara Falls Syndrome is a term coined by self-help guru Tony Robbins, used to describe a person who has no control over their life. If you find yourself passively going wherever the current of life takes you, this article might help. Understand what Niagara Falls Syndrome is so you can avoid becoming passive in your own life. 

Learn more about Niagara Falls Syndrome below. 

Niagara Falls Syndrome, Explained

Although the road to change begins with a decision, many people never take this first step because they believe their lives are shaped by their circumstances. These people ride along the river of life without making any active decisions to change course. They go wherever the current of life takes them, and they end up feeling out of control. Robbins calls this state of living Niagara Falls Syndrome. 

When you suffer from Niagara Falls Syndrome, you spend all your energy trying not to let the current crash you into rocks, and you have no resources left to make proactive plans for your future. You may not even realize you’re being pulled along until you’re about to go over the edge of a waterfall—and by then, it’s too late to fight the current. 

There are a number of reasons why people develop Niagara Falls Syndrome and avoid making decisions: 

1) They’ve made so few real decisions in life that they struggle to make even simple choices, such as what to have for dinner. This is a symptom of weak decision-making muscles: Avoiding some decisions creates a snowball effect that causes people to avoid even more decisions. As with any other muscle weakness, the solution to this problem is to practice by making decisions at every opportunity. 

2) They’re afraid of making the wrong decision. Mistakes and failures are inevitable—instead of lamenting them or trying to avoid them through indecision, learn from them. Failures lead to experiences, which build good judgment and lay the groundwork for successful future decisions. When you face failures in the short term, persist and keep your focus on the long-term goal. 

As you build your decision-making muscles and learn to embrace mistakes, instead of viewing challenges as potential failures, you’ll see them as opportunities to make critical decisions. 

3) They think about decisions loosely, instead of seeing them as commitments. As a result, when they think they’re making a decision, they’re really only making a casual resolution. When you make a true decision, you cut yourself off from any other possibility. For example, when an alcoholic decides to be sober, she doesn’t consider having even one drink. That commitment gives you clarity and focus, which are empowering.

4) They don’t know how they’ll achieve what they’ve decided to do, so they avoid commitment. When you make a decision, don’t worry about the how. Trust that, if you’re truly committed to your decision, you’ll find a way to manifest it. 

Even if you avoid making decisions for any of these reasons, your inaction is actually a decision in itself: Namely, the decision to take a passive role in shaping your life and allow external factors to dictate your actions. Don’t fall into this trap: Instead, take an active role in your life and make decisions that will take you where you want to be.

Niagara Falls Syndrome: The Cost of Being Passive

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  • How to make transformational changes to your life through small adjustments
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  • Strategies to take control of your thoughts and emotions

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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