The industrialized nations are home to societies of doers. Our educational systems ingrain the need to think, complete, and meet deadlines. Our childhood life seldom offers or encourages us to simply be. I know that in my childhood it was very dangerous to be seen playing or doing anything that my parents may have perceived as non-doing, for an idle child on a farm is often considered a useless child. Then and now, children typically have to escape the views of their parents to have the freedom to do what they want. And what do they want other than to play, explore, and enjoy themselves -- to be creative?
Just as those of us in this country have been conditioned to achieve what we call the American Dream, we've been conditioned to believe that such dreams can only come by way of hard work, sacrifice, discipline, and even blood, sweat, and tears. Most young males, and now more than ever, females, have had this kind of conditioning driven deeper into their psyche through sports training. It is natural to ask someone, "What sport do you play?" yet our play, more often than not, turns out to be yet another form of tasking.
We are all bound up in our need to do, and often this is the problem. Sometimes the right thing to do is to do nothing. This article investigates when and why doing nothing is the best strategy for your health and happiness.
I teach my students that there are always three choices to make in every relationship:
1. The optimal choice -- the choice that produces the most favorable result for everyone involved.
2. The suboptimal choice -- the choice that doesn't get the best results for everyone involved. While we often make that choice because there is something in it for us, it leads to discomfort or pain more often than not.
3. Doing nothing -- the opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference. Indifference, in my observation, is the result of the apathy that often results from repeatedly failing. As one repeatedly fails, if they do not learn how to make better choices, they become paralyzed. First, this occurs as an emotional response that emerges from the fear of failure. This emotional response can commandeer one's mind. When it does, anxiety typically emerges because now you become a deer staring into the headlights of an oncoming car. Instead of responding naturally and instinctively, the intellect becomes crippled. The kind of apathy I describe here isn't helpful, but there is another kind of "doing nothing" that can be the right thing to do.
When is Doing Nothing a Good Idea?
It isn't uncommon to feel challenged by a situation in life, and it is quite natural to fear making a suboptimal choice. But typically, we feel pressured into making a decision by our perception of what others want. Our programming typically wants us to rush things as well. For example, how many times have you gotten into an argument with someone you know is typically emotional, yet instead of biting your lip and letting them settle into a state more conducive to rational thought, you find yourself engaged in battle? Over what, milk and eggs? A missed homework assignment? Was it really worth it?
Now what if you took the time to sit on the decision or problem for a while? Hens sit on their eggs until just the right time for hatching. Mothers gestate and they know naturally that this is a nine-month process, so naturally they don't try to rush it. A good coach knows it takes time to create a great athlete. Good coaches don't rush it because they know that if they do, more often than not, the athlete ends up injured. With experience, we all come to know the natural gestation period for the ideas we commonly work with. So sometimes, the best thing to do is really nothing at all!
The best time to do nothing is:
1. When you don't feel you can make an optimal decision because you either don't have the knowledge or the information you need. If the information can only come forth through time, experience, or through the assistance of someone else, then simply do your part and then be patient enough to do nothing while the idea gestates.
2. When your emotions or the other party's emotions are flaring and neither of you can be rational, doing nothing is a great idea!
3. When you don't have the energy to act optimally, then doing nothing while you accumulate energy is a great idea!
4. When you are being coerced into doing something that you are confident is going to produce detrimental results, doing nothing is a good idea! For example, I recall Osho saying in one of his lectures that in Vietnam, 30% of soldiers returned all their ammunition at the end of each day in the battlefield. Though they were drafted into the war, they did not believe that their actions would produce a favorable result for anyone involved, so rightly, they did nothing.
5. When you want to make a statement about your opinion, be it on war, abortion, gay rights, or anything else and your natural urge is to attack those with opposing views, it is a great idea to do nothing!
6. When you are aware that making a decision will disturb the natural gestation period for a given idea, not making the decision -- doing nothing -- becomes a great idea.
7. When you realize that all ideas have a shelf life and that the lifespan of an idea depends on how many people energize it with either positive or negative energy, doing nothing may well be the best statement you can make. After all, to the very degree that your actions support what you don't want, your actions also support what others don't want. Unless you are alone on an island, where forcing your opinion won't create a loser, you may make the greatest possible offering by -- you probably guessed it -- doing nothing.
Sometimes, it's best to just do nothing. So next time someone sends you a flamer of an email, do nothing and you'll probably be helping the hothead cool down. The next time your child is stressed because they've been thrown into the world of an adult and they are reacting emotionally -- do nothing. If you have too much "Do! Do!" with your "Don't do!" what you've got for sure is more stress. It's better to do nothing. After all, there is another name for this kind of doing nothing. It is patience -- and patience is a virtue.
About the Author:
Paul Chek is an internationally renowned expert in the fields of holistic health and personal, professional, and spiritual mastery systems addressing all aspects of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. For over twenty-five years, Paul's unique, holistic approach to treatment and education has changed the lives of countless individuals worldwide. As a walking, talking definition of success, Paul is above all an educator, teaching and applying his methods to benefit others. He has produced more than 50 videos, 6 books, 2 e-books, and 16 advanced-level home study courses while regularly contributing to many diverse publications and websites. Paul is the founder of the C.H.E.K Institute and the P~P~S Success Mastery Center, in San Diego, California, USA. http://www.ppssuccess.com