MB003616Standing and staring … or sitting and snoozing. When did you last take a few moments, or a few hours — not to DO anything, but just to sit and be, sit and ponder, sit and … see what comes up?

Can you even remember?

I’m not talking about the times when it happens by accident — stuck in a traffic jam, standing in a queue, waiting for someone who’s late. Though wouldn’t it be an excellent idea to grab these odd moments with gratitude and enjoy the chance to ‘tune in and tune out’? Instead we tend to fret about being late or wasting time or what we could or should be doing instead. What a waste!

‘A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.’ William Davies

What is it that validates a life? That makes a life worth living, or a life well lived? It’s different for everyone. But it surely isn’t being busy.

‘The devil makes work for idle hands.’ Really?

As a self-confessed doer, always busy, always on the go, with a packed day and a packed diary, I am, admittedly rather late in life, starting to recognise the value of idleness. Not constant idleness, but short intermissions, pauses, little episodes of nothing. It’s a struggle, and I still have to consciously give myself permission. But I’m coming to recognise the true value, and the unexpectedly wonderful side effects.

Time to review, recharge, reframe. Time to draw breath, ask questions, shift perspective. Time to change the context, join the dots, see the bigger picture. Time to smile, breathe, settle … and then carry on again.

Hurrying, in my experience and contrary to expectation, never gets me there quicker. In fact it often makes me late, and I certainly tend to miss the delicious little serendipities that life scatters in my path when I’m paying attention. Nor have I ever ever discovered any of the pockets of time that I’ve ‘saved’ earlier, by doing more or doing it faster.

That driver who overtakes you on a blind corner because he’s in such a hurry to get wherever he’s going is still stuck just one car’s length ahead of you at the next set of traffic lights (and that’s if he’s lucky and the gods have smiled on him).

Busyness creates the illusion of progress. But it’s a bit like running on a treadmill, using up energy, burning up calories, taking up time in order to get … nowhere. Running on the spot, literally.

I know I’ve used busyness at times in order to avoid thinking, because I was unhappy, or worried, or had lost my sense of direction. I was taught as a child that if I lost my ‘accompanying adult’, I was not to go wandering off further but to stand still and wait to be found. It’s sound advice still.

If you’re not sure where you’re going in life, or in business, it’s crucial to stand still, take note of where you are right now, get clear about where you want to be … and then the route to get you there will often reveal itself. Otherwise you might find you’ve ended up in a place you really didn’t want to be, just because you blindly and busily blundered on.

There’s another bonus that comes from doing nothing. All that shouting and hallooing from the ego and our social conditioning so easily drowns out the quiet little whisper of our inner wisdom. ‘Do more — do it better — do it my way — don’t screw up!’ It’s relentless. And noisy.

Your inner wisdom never shouts that loud. So you’ve got to be patient, and still, and get comfortable with waiting.

If you do wait quietly, let the thoughts settle, focus on gratitude, breathe in appreciation, breathe out love … you’ll find that your sense of what’s right and wrong, what’s a good idea and what’s not, what your life is really about and what truly will make your life well-lived, becomes much clearer. Decisions become easier. Then perhaps you can start to discern the inner promptings that will guide you to work that you love, to your own true north, to your own bliss. To a life worth living.

Your day will be magically punctuated with little pockets of joy, little moments of magic.

And you’ll get way more stuff done. (The important stuff, that is.)