Mastering the Art of Doing Nothing


If you haven’t noticed yet, American culture really, really values fast thinking. This country is an extrovert’s paradise — immediate praise and opportunity are always available for those who jump first and seemingly have the answer to save the day. But, racing to a solve can have wildly miscalculated results. Some issues require time or space away from the problem. Some problems aren’t actually real problems. And some answers often need a serious insecurity background check first, to make sure they aren’t soaked in fear. But most of the time, no matter how counterintuitive it feels, doing nothing at all can actually be a smartest move you can make.

A Classic Example
A friend of mine recently had a one night stand with an old lover in Paris. When she returned home in the morning, however, she immediately fell into panic. Would he call again? Would they really see each other in a week like he promised? Was that the last time she’d ever see that perfect, pink peen? Her problem-solving for the worst case scenario began to fire up immediately, while simultaneously creating a whole other problem for her self-esteem.

She spent the rest of her day in agony, texting all her friends for advice on her dilemma. The following days, while traveling along the most beautiful parts of the French country side, she remained fixated on the meaning of the fling. She was terrified that he’d never call her again. She began to compensate for her fears with other men she met along the way, which only led to even more interactions that made her unsure of herself, wondering if they would call her back as well. It turned into a very unfortunate mess.

Missing The Details
In this story, there are several different things wrong with her approach. Most obvious is that she really didn’t have a problem to solve. She actually let her imagination (fears) create her own agony. Second, in her fixation to reconnect with her lover, she completely missed a very big detail to her situation: she just boned a really hot guy in Paris. One that was not her ex-boyfriend, who had treated her terribly and inspired the vacation in the first place. And someone who apparently loved being with her so much the first time they met, than when she told him she’d be in Paris he decided he’d love to see her again. The validation her insecurities were looking for were all actually present.In her race to find Mr. Right, however, she was just missing everything.

A Better Response
She did what we all do at times — in a moment of panic, she pulled out her most trusted instinct to solve the problem. Unfortunately that instinct was soaked in her deepest insecurities in love and men, which never allowed her night to turn fully into a positive and encouraging memory. If she had applied the doing nothing approach and let herself be for just an hour when she got home—she would have been able to relax, see she had a great evening and receive the lovely gift of being appreciated and valued — even if it was just for a moment. She could have registered the evening as a memory of confidence instead of an event of turmoil and likely repaired some of her self-esteem struggles.

In Practice
At work, taking a step back to absorb more before you speak could give you keen insight to a problem’s more effective solution. And in relationships, if a conflict arises and you don’t know how to respond (and your health and safety are not at risk), try doing nothing. The extra time will give you the advantage of a cheetah in the weeds, and when it’s time to pounce, you’ll land on target. Give it a try. And let me know how it goes for you below.

over Image Story source
Sleeping Woman, by Károly Ferenczy 1912
Ferenczy is considered the ‘father of Hungarian impressionism and post-impressionism’ and the ‘founder of modern Hungarian painting. You can view more of his collection in here.

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