I want to start off by saying I am a big “doer.” I love doing things, planning what I will be doing in the future and get a lot of enjoyment thinking about what I have accomplished. For most of my adult life, what I do has been a measure of my success and identity.
Over the years, I noticed that along with this love of doing things and measuring my success based upon my accomplishments, came a whole lot of pressure and anxiety to constantly be productive or think of new ideas. Moreover, I started to notice while I might have gotten a lot done, the quality of my work was not where I wanted it to be or I rushed through an idea before fully thinking it through. As a result, I started to feel like a “Jill of all trades, master of none” which ultimately left me feeling empty and unfulfilled.
I want to be clear, I am not “anti-productivity.” Quite the contrary, there is absolute virtue and merit in knowing when to take action and initiating that plan, idea or process. It’s also important to remember there is value in taking the time to discover how you feel, exploring what really matters to you and how do you want to implement your ideas before acting or making a decision in your personal or professional life.
Further, studies show that there is value in “doing nothing” or having moments of idle time or boredom. Ever notice how you get your best ideas when you are driving to work, taking a shower or sitting in a mundane meeting? When our brain is “in idle” we are giving it space to play, to daydream, to generate new ideas. In our current world of constant connection to technology via our phones, computers, tablets, etc…we struggle now more than ever to give ourselves an opportunity to be bored, make space for creativity and find moments to tap into our inner experience.
Is the idea of sitting with yourself and your feelings scary? That is understandable and actually quite normal. Sometimes our fear is an indicator that we are coming upon something that is important and authentic and perhaps we can learn to push through the initial discomfort of being alone with our thoughts and feelings and breathe into the experience of personal exploration in order to discover or learn something new about ourselves.
How do we do this? How do we, in effect, “do nothing?”
1.) Create the space intentionally and with intention:
Build into your schedule free and unstructured time. Make this time free from phones, computers, internet and other distractions. Start with closing your eyes and taking a few deeps breaths. Focus on your breath for about 5 minutes to allow yourself time to let go of whatever you were doing right before and any worries, fears, thoughts you have moving through your mind. Set the intention to tap into your inner experience, that you will have this space to come to whenever you need it and you will protect this time as a priority in your life.
2.) If you need an activity, make it a creative one or one that gets you into your body:
Sometimes having a few things on hand can be helpful, perhaps have some pens or pencils and paper handy to sketch, journal or color. Another ideas is to play music that gives you enjoyment, peace and connection. (I personally enjoy piano or violin music) Finally, if you feel the desire to move, allow yourself to dance or take a walk somewhere lovely. The idea is, something that allows for freeflowing creativity, space, safety and comfort and isn’t work-related and cannot stir up any feelings of worry or anxiety.
3.) Don’t judge or censor yourself:
Often we have an inner critic or have internalized others messages to us that tell us what we are doing wrong or give us reasons to beat ourselves up over mistakes we have made. Let go of any judgments of this time and what comes of it. There are no expectations of what happens, only that you hold the space and become curious of what arises in you. Allow yourself to express freely on the journal page, in the dance movement, on the canvas, in the daydream.
With time and patience, your comfort with empty space will increase and some find they actually welcome and look forward to this time as it gives them a greater sense of connection to themselves, helps to improve their relationships, they notice increases in creativity and new ideas and gives overall meaning and enrichment in their lives. Time doesn’t always have to be scheduled with something to do, the path towards transformation and peace can be to sit in moments of emptiness and space. You may find there is plenty to discover in the “nothing”