Much ado about NOthing

I suspect that America’s cultural imperialism and the power of Hollywood may have seduced us thinking that the answer to every problem lies in… Action! I say this whilst recognising that men are far more enthralled by this notion than women, or perhaps we are just victims to our yang energies. Whatever the reason, it leads to way too much busyness.

There are times when, truly, nothing works; when all that is required is to do no thing. I woke this morning very aware of the call of this state. For me it consisted, at that moment, of just lying in bed, literally not moving a muscle, just letting my mind float wherever it wanted. When I am in this ‘space’, even moving a finger is the wrong thing to do. I suppose it must be a personal version of a meditative state, though frankly, I never got anywhere that good when I have meditated!

I have been aware of needing to create some personal space for a while now, and the need to slow down, but have done a pretty poor job of doing so. This morning I awoke at 5’ish to the sound of the dawn chorus, my day’s activities cancelled by others’ choices, and the sun shining. So, today, I shall surrender to the Power of Nothing.

You may not be in such a lucky place, but I commend it to you both for the sake of your health and wellbeing and also as a philosophical response to some of the problems in your life. There are many times when our most positive response to a situation is to do nothing, and this is often the hardest ‘act’. So today, before you act, ask your self if nothing might not work better?

“Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” Oscar Wilde

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein


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9 Responses to “Much ado about NOthing”

  1. Update…

    I posted this when it was beautifully sunny; by the time I was ready to go it looked miserable and grey. I just got home from about 7.5 fabulous miles in the course of which I had sun, rain, hail, more sun. The woods were full of primroses and the beginnings of this years bluebell,even the odd viola. I feel energised, tired and relaxed all in one…. I hope some of you had a similarly great day playing with nothing

  2. amanda_h says:

    A timely and beautifully written piece of wisdom Richard – the native American people were masters at this – Active Waiting they called it – knowing that nothing was to be done, and not being in the least bit concerned about it – everything has its season …

    Thank you for a lovely blog!

  3. clare_e says:

    Strange as it may seem for someone who works on improving other people’s productivity and effectiveness, I often advocate the importance of doing Nothing. We spend so much of our time rushing from one task to another, trying to cram everything in to our busy lives, pulled in different directions by all the demands on our time that we very rarely find time to do Nothing.

    When I first left the corporate world – I had plenty of time to do nothing – in fact I was finding time to do the things I enjoyed, while wondering how I managed to find time for life at all when working full time. The luxury of being able to meet a friend for a leisurely lunch and not have to rush back to the office. To be able to sit with a coffee and a book for an hour or so. One afternoon, I walked all the way home from Brighton. A walk of about 6 miles. It took me about 2 1/2 hours and I stopped off for lunch part way, relaxing in the warm Spring sunshine. It was a lovely day, I was in no rush to be anywhere and I had time to enjoy doing nothing. I realised that it wasn’t something I’d ever done before, because I was always too busy rushing to and from work or doing other things at the weekend.

    Now, I’m more flexible with my time, although it doesn’t come easily, I’m even more aware of the ability to do Nothing (in a creative way).


  4. Clare,
    Thanks for sharing that story. Getting the balance between focused action and reflective, unfocused inaction is good place to be

  5. Amanda,
    I’m glad it was timely for you. I write these never knowing who they are meant for on any particular day, but with a real sense they will ‘find’ the right people.

    Thanks for your thoughts

  6. Satin says:

    Marvellous piece Richard, couldn’t agree more. We certainly do live in a society of ‘let’s change this, let’s change that…’, agreed that much needs changing but imo they are fundamental issues rather than the myriad of things that we busy ourselves with. Time out for contemplation and reflection is most important for self-management.

    I happen to be a bit of a fidgety hyper-type quite often but I certainly do gain a lot of benefit from the occasional bit of time out. Balance is the word.

  7. Satin,
    Thank you and of course you have it dead right… it is all about the balance.

  8. Satin says:

    Wonderfully summarised by Clare, performance optimisation comes from managing peak vs. downtime – do you know of anyone who manages to peak all of the time ?

  9. Agreed Satin, that is a good summary

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