This holiday week I want to continue my heretical body slamming on the culture of doing…the already frenetic pace of which seems to increase this time of year. It’s a common view that if we’re not doing something, we’re failing or lagging behind. Everything in our world is about growing, progress, and production. This movement is often defined simply by action with little emphasis on the nature or the result of that action.
In this week’s issue entitled, The Art of Not Doing, we explore the radical idea of not doing to support the emergence of solutions to our problems both individually and in our groups.
Our personal and business lives are defined by going after what we want, and fighting or running from what we don’t want. We’re advised about what food we should eat, what drugs or supplements we should take, and what we should think and believe. For any question or problem you have, people will line up to tell you what you should do about it.
I remember working for the government in a fast-paced flight test environment many years ago. It seemed that crisis was the rule of the day. People frantically scurried about responding to the never ending supply of problems. I began to observe that if I quickly responded to a supposed crisis or to a request for action, I often had to undo this action the very next day. I soon learned that not immediately responding was usually the best approach. More than half the time, the action that was an urgent necessity yesterday was today withdrawn or changed to a new option today. Ironically, I found that by slowing down my doing, I had a whole lot more time to get more done and a lot less stress doing it!
So I wonder. What if the source of many of our problems, both personal and professional are simply the product of a matrix of erroneous observations, thoughts, and assumptions? The biggest problem being, our belief that they are true. What happens if we continue to dip into the source of our problems in search of their solutions?
So how does this apply practically to group leadership? I have no idea. Why don’t we wait until tomorrow and see what answers we wake up with. I’m only partially kidding. Since you’ll probably not want another email on this subject tomorrow, some things do need to be done today. Let’s see what wants to write itself below.
When confronted with problems and challenges begging for solution and action, perhaps on occasion a perspective of negation may yield some fresh insights. Here are some questions to apply to the situation that may help you to take a fresh perspective.
- What happens if you do nothing? It’s rare than a problem requires an immediate response or solution. Sometimes no response, or a response later in time is better. This is so if the problem goes away on its own, changes into a more or less complex problem, or if more information becomes available over time that will contribute to a better solution.
- What can you stop doing that might help the situation? Perhaps the problem that exists is the result of someone, somewhere doing something that might best not be done. If your problem is being overweight, not eating so much is a very inexpensive part of the solution.
- Is the problem you’re fixing really the problem? It’s not uncommon for us to assume that our definition of the problem is accurate. The problem defined may in fact be a symptom of a deeper problem. The current health care debate in the U.S. comes to mind as a great example. Here we are trying to provide everyone with health care by a system that does a better job at keeping people sick that it does of healing them. Please, my health can afford that kind of help!
- Are the current “doers” the best ones to be doing it? Perhaps there are people doing things that should stop doing them, allowing them to be done by others. For example, I’d be better off devoting time I spend on administrative functions to creative and marketing functions.
- How can you stop being so serious? The greatest discoveries and solutions throughout history have nearly always come not when the discoverer was busy doing, but when he or she was in an open, relaxed space. This doesn’t mean that preparatory work isn’t necessary, but it does mean that there comes a time when we need to relax, take a break, get a massage, and let the best solution emerge. Not from our thinking but from the source of our thoughts.
A mind continuing to seek for solutions in the same morass that created it is a futile pursuit. The truth that’s dawning on me is, what we don’t do, don’t think, don’t eat, and don’t believe may be the missing (literally) link to our well-being!
Are you over-doing it? If so, where? What are you willing to not do? I’m interested in hearing your perspectives on this and how this information might help you facilitate groups as either a leader or as a participant. Just click Add Your Comments below to share your questions, feedback, or experience on this topic.