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The Fine Art of Doing Nothing

Sometimes it’s hard to be alone, especially alone with our own thoughts

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“…people never are alone now. We make them hate solitude; and we arrange their lives so that it’s almost impossible for them ever to have it.” ~ Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

In this era, it’s becoming harder to be alone, especially alone with our own thoughts. Dr. Timothy Wilson, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, along with other researchers conducted an experiment with student volunteers. The students were given two options: For 15 uninterrupted minutes they could do nothing.

Or, they could give themselves a small, electric shock. Roughly 67% of the men and 25% of the women in the experiment chose to give themselves small shocks, even though earlier, many had proclaimed that they would pay money not to endure such a shock.

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Anxious for Anything To Do

Why did they opt for the shock? They became increasingly anxious for anything to do over the course of the 15 minutes. Aha, you say! These were probably millennials for whom a 15-minute stretch of doing nothing is virtually impossible.

As it turns out, the participants consisted of adults recruited from a farmer’s market and from a church. They acted in much the same way that you might expect of millennials. They felt anxious and antsy when left alone for a 15-minute stretch with nothing else to do but be with themselves.

The question  for each of us is why is it becoming so hard to take a few moments throughout the day to simply do nothing? Have we become such a driven populace that we cannot even spare a few minutes for ourselves? Do we not recognize the peace of mind that we can experience when we’re not fully occupied every minute of the day?

Weaning Yourself

If you feel that you are constantly seeking to optimize every minute of the day, and perhaps are oversubscribed, over-informed, and overwhelmed, here are interlaced ideas that you can put into practice:

Start small. Rather than attempt a long stretch of doing simply nothing, see if you can last for 60 seconds or maybe 120 if you’re feeling brave. It’s best to attempt this after you finish a task, and feel good about your accomplishment. Marinade in your positive feelings.

Perhaps before you go to lunch or return from lunch, or before or after taking a break, why not allow yourself a little time to pause and, well, simply do nothing.

If you have a 15 minute break, where is it written that you can’t spend 60 seconds at your desk doing nothing, take a 13 minute break, then spend the last 60 seconds at your desk, again doing nothing.

Expand Your Ability

As you build more and more confidence in your ability to take some time out with no thoughts or activities in mind, strive for three to five minutes. If you arrive at work early, you could spend such time in your car with the radio off, not checking your cell phone, and not doing anything, other than simply sitting there.

At your workplace, maybe you can spend three minutes undetected in a conference room, corporate library, rooftop terrace, or elsewhere.

At home, where you have more flexibility, could you attempt a short weekend session? This should be no problem. During the weekday, it’s understandable that you seek to efficiently commute to and from work, although even on weeknights it might be possible for you to carve out a few minutes. Think of all the times you’ve been online, or you flick through the TV channels, and how aimless that can be.

Reinforce What Works

As time passes, giving yourself some stretches here and there where you don’t have to do anything can become reinforcing. You have the opportunity to take a deep breath. You get a chance to reflect, or to clear your mind. You have time to visualize.

Even if none of these things happen, you still get a chance to slow down. Any way you look at it, it’s a good proposition.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Life

Authors Who Avoid Hasty Conclusions

Much of the information that we encounter, especially via the internet, is only partially true, if not completely bogus

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So much of the information that we encounter today, especially via the internet, is only partially true, if not completely bogus. As such, I admire the work of selected authors over the past few decades. They remind me to check out what seems to be common knowledge, for the truth the lies beyond it:

Self-help author Denis Waitley observed Albert Einstein always scored quite well in math and science. Some “historians” noted that his top grade of six on a scale of one to six dropped to a level of one from one year to the next, and they arbitrarily assumed he had started to flunk those courses. The school had reversed its grading system, however, to make the highest grade a one instead of a six.

For decades, no one had bothered to examine the original “evidence” leading to the proclamation that Einstein was an academic failure.

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Pop Trends

In her book, Backlash, author Susan Faludi told how “pop” market forecasters made a fortune by reviewing popular media, such as newspapers, television, movies and so forth, and then concluding what trends are looming in America. The extreme fallacy with this method of forecasting, Faludi noted, is that it tends to promulgate that which only a handful of editors, publishers and directors believe or perpetrate. No hard data supports the “forecasts.”

One such forecaster was credited with coining the term “cocooning” for the 1980s, where working men and women, particularly women, decided to spend more time in the household. Faludi shows that the assertion has no relationship to U.S. Department Bureau of Labor Statistics that indicated an increase in the number of women in the workforce and in the time each spent outside the home.

Nevertheless, corporations paid hefty sums to be told where we were all headed next. Because many other factors can obscure results, if the predicted “trend” then doesn’t help the corporate customer, it is rarely linked back to the forecaster. Such companies would do better, observed Faludi, to simply consult the U.S. Bureau of the Census, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other sources that independently collect data, presumably with no bias.

Dastardly Dads?

Faludi also uncovered this: The “fact” that an epidemic of divorced fathers refused to pay child care, which is a falsehood that distorted reality for decades. According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, the great majority of fathers with joint custody of their children – nearly 90% – paid their entire support obligation, in full and on time. Some 80% of fathers with visitation privileges, but not joint custody, paid regularly. Only when the courts deprive fathers of both custody and access do support levels drop to under 50%, the figure mistakenly attributed to all fathers.

Despite the strong correlation between a man’s ability to have joint custody or visitation with his children and his willingness to make regular support payments, most legislators and judges didn’t seem to see it. Their automatic and immediate response in cases of nonpayment was to blame the male, instead of enforcing the man’s right to visit his children and encouraging father-child relationships.

By continuing to make the majority of child custody awards to women, the courts systematically disregarded the role fathers played and all but ensured that the children would have adjustment problems. Even if a man legally wins visitation rights, his ability to visit his kids isn’t guaranteed. Judges don’t often put uncooperative mothers in jail. So, fathers end up going to court repeatedly – a costly venture. Sometimes after many attempts to visit their children, some fathers withhold support payments to force what the courts will not.

The media, charging to no one’s rescue and in search of thirty second sound bites, label such fathers as deadbeat, or worse. Hence, the widespread misconception about the true nature of what’s going on in this critical arena continues even to this day.

Abounded Influence

In his acclaimed 1990 book, Agents of Influence, author Pat Choate debunked the myth that the Japanese, as a whole, significantly contributed to the development of innovation and technology as evidenced by their annual lead in the number of U.S. patents they had filed and obtained. As Choate explained, the Japanese tilted the economic playing field, via the ruthless art of “patent flooding.”

When a U.S. firm, for example, applied for a patent representing an innovation on which the Japanese wanted to capitalize, Japanese firms issued a flurry of patent applications that surrounded the technology at hand. Thus, the original developer or inventor could not market his invention  without getting clearance from the Japanese, who could tie up an invention in the courts simply because they held nuisance patents for a component or contributing element to the major patent.

After decades of such tactics, and with China included as a leading culprit, the U.S. government still has failed to install comprehensive, necessary protections to safeguard the toil and genius of the original American patent applicant. As such, our government has unwittingly contributed to the redistribution of billions of dollars in royalties and revenues to others.

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Life

Friends: Real and Imagined

Technology can aid humankind but if we are not careful it can diminish the quality of our lives

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Researchers from the National Opinion Research Center have found that people who watch a lot of television seem to be as psychologically content as people who have many friends.

These disappointing findings stem from the fact that, “the human brain evolved long before television came along, so subconsciously it recognizes any face it sees regularly as a friend, even if it is on the screen,” says Satoshi Kanazawa, Ph.D., author of the study.

Does the above explain why society remains in a stupor of overfed, undernourished, overweight, socially inept citizens? After all they are, indeed, getting their social and psychological strokes by tuning in to see their favorite “friends” each week.

Trending on PolitiCrossing.com: Tucker: Because of Joe Biden, it’s that simple

Stuck in a Stupor?

Technology can certainly be an aid to human kind but if we are not careful it can greatly diminish the quality of our lives. Technology distracts us from our own thought, daydreams, even our own imagination.

When we fill in the time from the car to the elevator and the elevator to the office, or from lunch back to the office, with a cell phone, we interrupt the opportunity for people to marinate in their own imaginations.

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