Why Doing Nothing Works


in Happiness,Personal Growth

Ever had one of those days where you rush around frantically feeling like you should be doing something? Anxiously, you dart from project to project trying to fulfill the goals in your life plan. Nothing is satisfying. Nothing turns out the way you hope. You make no progress whatsoever.

You are not making “it” happen; instead, you are just frustrated.

In a culture permeated by making things happen and getting things done, the inability to “do” can generate feelings of anxiety. Of unease and disquiet.

But what if the inability to “do” was really a message to our best selves? A message shouting, “Hey, you, I need you to pay attention!”

Attention is exactly what is required when we run into bumps on the path to progress – on the path to lasting change – because real change occurs in the smallest of steps. One step flows into the next. It can’t be forced.

And, that is where we get into trouble – when we try to force change. When we try to make it happen and it doesn’t want to.

So the next time you hit the wall and can’t make anything happen, just STOP. Do nothing.

Don’t make another run at a project. Don’t try to invent a new project. Don’t try to come up with a new plan. No. No. No.

Do nothing.

Enjoy the beauty of the day. Relax. Know that everything is just as it is supposed to be for this moment. Breathe. Be still. And, then, only then, look and see – not as someone searching for answers but as an observer of the mystery of your own life.

Merely observe the swirling threads of all that is going on. When the frenetic pace of doing things dies down, patterns are illuminated. Light shines on what might not be working. Insights are delivered.  

We can consider adjustments. We can consider the path itself.

But only if we are quiet. Doing nothing.

It’s sometimes the hardest work but it’s the best work we can ever do.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Garrett May 19, 2011 at

This is wonderful, Andrea, thank you. Doing nothing is often the best option until I can regroup and see the next thing to be done. It is desirable in itself from time to time, as you show. I think of Christopher Robin and Pooh talking in the last chapter of the House at Pooh Corner and Christopher Robin says “It’s when grownups ask, what are you doing and you say nothing and then you go and do it.” Or in one of the Mary Poppins books the king of the castle, having been taught by the Dirty Rascal, answers the professor’s question “What is the greatest pleasure,” by saying “doing nothing.” Maybe in this case it means doing no-thing. Action and non-action (not inaction.) Great post.


Andrea May 19, 2011 at

Thank you, Garrett! I love that you used Winnie the Pooh and Mary Poppins … children’s literature has a lot of wisdom for us, don’t you think? Maybe we really did learn everything we needed to know in kindergarten.


Dick Beeson May 20, 2011 at

Reading your introduction took me away from doing nothing. I’m sure that was not your intent! :)
RW Emerson would be proud of you.


Andrea May 21, 2011 at

So nice to see you – and hear from you – here. Thanks, Dick! :)


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