Ours is a culture of doing at an increasingly frenetic pace. We’re taught that if we’re not doing something, then we’re failing, wasting time, or lagging somehow. Everything in our world is about growing, progress, and production. Taking action for the sake of action with little emphasis on purpose or results, can suck us into an exhausting, self-reinforcing spiral of confusion.
Our personal and business lives are defined by going after what we want, and fighting or running from what we don’t. We’re advised about what food we should eat, what drugs or supplements we should take, what we should think and believe. For any question or problem you have, people will line up to tell you what you should do about it.
I remember working for the government in a fast-paced flight test environment many years ago. Constant crisis was the rule of the day. People frantically scurried about responding to the never ending supply of problems. I began to observe an interesting property of these supposed crisis fueled by knee-jerk imperatives for action. More than half the time, the action that was an urgent necessity yesterday was changed to a new option or completely unnecessary today. Ironically, I found that by slowing down my doing, and reactions to requests for more doing, I had a whole lot more time to get more done and a lot less stress doing it!
So I wonder. What if the source of many of our problems, both personal and professional are simply the product of a matrix of erroneous observations, thoughts, and reactions? The biggest problem being, our belief that they are true. What happens if we dig deeper into the source of our problems in search of their solutions?
An Inaction Checklist
When confronted with problems and challenges begging for solutions, perhaps on occasion a perspective of negation may yield fresh insights. Here are some questions to apply to the situation that may help you to take a fresh perspective.
– What happens if you do nothing? It’s rare than a problem requires an immediate response or solution. Sometimes no response, or a response later in time is better. A delay in response may benefit us if a problem today is not a problem tomorrow, or more information becomes available that will contribute to a better solution.
– What can you stop doing that might help the situation? Perhaps the problem that exists is the result of someone, somewhere doing something that might best not be done. If your problem is being overweight, not eating so much is a very inexpensive part of the solution.
– Is the problem you’re fixing really the problem? It’s not uncommon for us to assume that our definition of the problem is accurate. The problem defined may in fact be a symptom of a deeper problem. The health care debate in the U.S. comes to mind as a great example. Here we are trying to provide everyone with health care by a system that does a better job at keeping people sick that it does of healing them. Please, my health can’t afford that kind of help!
– Are the current “doers” the best ones to be doing it? Perhaps there are people doing things that should stop doing them, allowing them to be done by others. For example, I’d be better off devoting time I spend on administrative functions to creative and marketing functions.
– How can you stop being so serious? The greatest discoveries and solutions throughout history have nearly always come not when the discoverer was busy doing, but when he or she was in an open, relaxed space. This doesn’t discount the value of preparatory work, but it does mean that there comes a time when we need to relax, take a break, get a massage, go play, and let the best solution emerge. Not from our thinking but from the source of our thoughts.
– How much of your identity do you derive from doing? Our western social and religious institutions have pounded the idea of constant action into us from an early age, i.e. An idle mind is the devils playground. How would you feel about yourself if you produced less? Would you still view yourself as a valuable being? If not, then you have a clue here. Your worth as a human being, as an embodied Soul is enough as it is. Your true identity and self-worth have nothing to do with your actions. To the degree that they do, you have work to undo.
A mind continuing to seek for solutions in the same morass that created it is a futile pursuit. The truth that’s dawning on me is: what we don’t do, don’t think, don’t eat, and don’t believe may be the missing (literally) link to our well-being!