JUST THINKING AND FEELING
DR. ICHAK ADIZES is an expert in change management for organizations. Here he shares some thoughts on doing nothing, and how he creates the space for that through a yogic meditation practice.
Every day in the modern world poses an increasing number of problems and opportunities in our lives. There are so many existing and new oppor-threats, that we simply don’t have enough time to address them all. We are all busy, and if we slow down for even a second, we feel guilty because “there is so much to do.” But if you stop for an interval of time and do nothing, you might find it has its benefits.
First, doing nothing gives you the time to reminisce; to review what you are doing and analyze whether or not you should continue doing it. You get to see the value, or the futility, of doing something or anything. Doing nothing for a moment is like pulling yourself out of a picture, so that you can see the picture from a different perspective. We all know how difficult it is to see the picture when you are in it.
When you do nothing, you give yourself the opportunity to ask, “Is it time to change?” Filling your time with something to do is a perfect escape from yourself, while doing nothing forces you, sometimes painfully, to face yourself and your concerns.
I have noticed an interesting phenomenon among people who ask for a divorce. I asked them: When did the idea germinate? When was the final decision to make a change “born”? It often happened when the person was on vacation or sick in bed with nothing to do. When you do nothing, you give yourself a chance to review everything.
In the Hindu tradition, zero and infinity are related. Everything is nothing. Nothing is everything. Another benefit of doing nothing for an interval of time is that it provides space for creating something new. When your brain is fully engaged it is not available to be creative. I have found an interesting common denominator among my entrepreneurial clients: When they were young, they were either sick for a long time or, for some other reason, they were alone with nothing to do. Having nothing to do, they had to create something by themselves. Often they did lots of daydreaming, and over time they developed their dream, which became their reality. With nothing to do, they had the time to evaluate their past and make plans for the future.
What I have been saying so far boils down to this: Having nothing to do is a prerequisite for making a change. Have you ever had the resolve to make a strategic change when you were stressed to catch a plane? Look at a train. To change the rails it is riding on it needs to slow down, or even stop all together.
Full speed ahead and changing direction are not compatible activities. (P) and (E) are incompatible roles. You need (I) in the middle to enable change. Having nothing to do can create the opportunity to make a strategic change in one’s life. What may seem to be a problem could be a blessing in disguise. Many entrepreneurs started their companies after they were fired from their previous jobs and had nothing to do for a while. Being employed, and struggling to remain employed, used all the limited energy they had; they simply didn’t have the energy to even think about starting a business. Getting fired was the best thing that could have happened to them. It gave them the time and energy to analyze what they really wanted to do with their lives and what strategic changes they wanted to make.
Recession might also be a blessing in disguise. Falling sales, falling production, and less pressure to fulfill orders all provide a window of opportunity for the decision makers to reevaluate the past and implement strategic changes for the future.
Now a word of warning: Watching TV or reading a book in the shade of your sun umbrella or swimming or surfing or biking…none of them count as doing nothing. They could be classified as vacation, but not as “doing nothing.” Nothing means nothing. Nothing means having no agenda, no goal to achieve, nothing that engages your mind in any way. Nothing means that your mind is allowed to be free to wander.
In yoga, lying relaxed on the floor (the “dead person pose”) is a pose in itself and a very important one. One has to know how to do nothing. It is a science and an art in itself.
How, then, should you go about doing nothing? Here is what I believe is the answer: You will never find the time to do nothing; you have to consciously and intentionally take the time to do nothing. The easiest way to implement this philosophy of life is to meditate. I meditate twice a day for an hour. If you do not want to meditate, make a commitment to sit and do nothing every day for an hour without feeling guilty about it. Have a pad and a pen available; you may be surprised by what you will think up. Doing nothing is doing something very important. It enables you to change, and in the hectic world in which we live, change is a prerequisite for success.
Just thinking and feeling,
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes
Dr. Ichak Adizes
Dr. Ichak Adizes is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading management experts. He has received 21 honorary doctorates and is the author of 27 books that have been translated into 36 languages. Dr. Adizes is recognized by Leadership Excellence Journal as one of the top thirty thought leaders of America.