When It’s Best To Do Nothing

There is always the choice in any situation to react or to respond. Sometimes there is a third choice where the best course of action is inaction; to do nothing.

Believe it or not, to do nothing can be a very effective skill to learn and practice. It is akin to being silent in a conversation or conflict. It requires you to be attentive and relaxed when you feel motivated to react and to do something. But sometimes that doing something is more harmful than helpful than doing nothing might be. Doing nothing requires you to be present, give everything your full attention, and just watch how things unfold without your intervention or meddling.

For me, I learned that skill early on and mostly by luck if I had to guess. Of course my inaction at times I know has frustrated a lot of people but once I explain my reasoning they seem to get it. The truth is that left alone, a lot of life’s problems can solve themselves all on their own without your interference. Honestly.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself… is nothing at all. At first it does take a lot mastery of self-control, but it’s well worth it in the end. Have you ever given a problem a day, or have you ever “slept on it” for a night and the next day the situation or problem looks completely different? Given some time, all of the sudden things don’t look so bad, and might actually be better?

When I worked in the telecommunications industry and I was a manager, quite often there would be HOT initiatives that would come down through the chain to my team and me. Many of these times, these “edicts from upon high” were nothing but crazy fire drills involving a lot of spreadsheet generation and manipulation. In the end they were major time wasters. We could have driven ourselves crazy always trying to get the newest and biggest demand completed but I learned a different tact over time and that was to do nothing. Seriously, I would sit on it, sometimes for as long as three weeks as that seemed to be the lifespan of these crazy needs. And you know what, if I had to guess, two out of three times, these things would just go away on their own. Of course more often than not they would be followed by some other silly hoop for us to jump through. By doing nothing in these cases I saved myself and my team a lot of time and energy which allowed us to get done what we really needed to get done which was our job.

Now I am not advocating sitting and doing nothing at work. I had learned though experience how to discern the needed that was really needed from the needed which was really unnecessary.

Refrain from making decisions if you immediately after something profound happens in your life. Don’t rush to action if something pops up in your relationship, don’t make that phone call to a coworker out of anger, don’t send that email that you won’t be able to take back. Give yourself a chance to process the situation and learn how to just be.

Don’t try to solve every problem as some problems have the ability to just take care of themselves. Try to do nothing when you are compelled or driven or feel the need to react… if you can, give things time to work themselves out on their own. It just might save you a lot of grief and energy in the long run.

Have you ever just left a problem alone and had it work out on it’s own? Are you able to do nothing, or do you always feel a need to jump in, even if might make or  has made matters worse?

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado

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