How To Be Okay Not Doing Anything

Sometimes the greatest changes happen in the space where we allow ourselves to just sit. To be. To allow a sense of stillness to creep in.

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Sometimes being okay with not ‘doing’ anything is what you really need most.

I could have been beating myself up these past few weeks. Life has been full. In glorious ways and in challenging ways. I’d set myself big intentions. I felt excited, driven and determined. I felt like this was an occasion to mark a new beginning, a new phase, something significant I just wasn’t sure entirely what.

So I set myself a project plan. Clearly defining what I needed to do in order to bring to life the next step in my big vision. And off I set. Believing that now that I had the clear steps, the plan, in place, then everything else would unfold as it need be.

And then I waited. I sat. With an open screen and no words flowing from me.

And I could have beaten myself up.

Weeks have since gone by and the ‘list’, the ‘plan’, remains as it were.

And I could be beating myself up still, right now, in the moment.

Have you ever had that experience? Where you felt like you had set everything out so clearly. Finally you felt a sense of clarity and that YES, this MUST be it. I’m ready to feel the momentum take over. And then, nothing?

Sometimes I’ve been tempted to get into blame mode in these situations. Like it must be everyone else’s fault that I’m stuck in the position I am, starting at my screen unable to move forward on my action plan. Like that phone call from a friend that got you off track. Or the delayed train. Or the fact that your partner didn’t cook dinner and you had to step in and make it happen again. It can feel so frustrating these ‘interferences’ in our lives – particularly when we’re all fired up and ready to go with a clear plan in place. And yet, these very interferences are simply distractions from our truth. I’ve learnt that it’s never about the interferences. It’s not about the people it’s about the pattern (as Harriet Lerner would say).

As a coach I’m trained to spot patterns and it means I’ve become a pattern hunter in my own life and in my clients’ lives. I look for how our actions and behaviours are playing out in our lives rather than focusing on the distractions. Because ultimately we have zero control of the interferences that rock up at any point in time. If you want something to change in your life. If you want to feel different. If you want to move forward. Then you have to take full responsibility for what IS in your control.

So, what’s been in my control these past few weeks?

How I choose to respond when I feel frustrated and irritable that no words are coming out. How I talk to myself inside my own head. How I choose the next thing I’ll do. How I choose to treat those around me during the feelings of frustration.

I used to beat myself up. Start telling myself I was hopeless and not good enough because I couldn’t’ even stick to a plan. And then that frustration, guilt, and sadness would bottle up and inevitably spill over into one of the ‘interferences’. I’d be grumpy and snappy with my partner for not cooking dinner, when really I was hurting that I didn’t know how to move forward on my ‘plan’.

That was the old pattern.

The new pattern? It’s taken some work. And consistent reminders to keep at it. The new pattern starts with kindness. To me. I know that I’m always doing the best I can. And so I tell myself that in the moment. I recognise and acknowledge the feeling too. I say “hmm, I’m feeling so frustrated right now. And that’s okay. I know I’m doing the best I can.” Or some variation of that.

The moment I feel tense and irritable with something external to me – the lady jumping the queue at the train station, the bus running late, my partner not speaking the ‘right’ tone to me – I know that’s my cue to turn the finger-pointing right back at me. I ask myself “how could I be taking full responsibility right now?” or “what’s in my control right now?” or “what’s this really about?”. These questions alone help dissipate my frustration and make me realise I really can affect change in that moment, if I’m focused on me.

So, I haven’t been beating myself up these past few weeks. Instead I’ve given myself space. I’ve given myself permission to let go of some of those expectations of what I’ll get done when. And I’ve also been acknowledging that sometimes the greatest changes happen in the space where we allow ourselves to just sit. To be. To allow a sense of stillness to creep in. That this ‘fertile void’ (as Kate Northrup says) is so incredibly powerful. And while at times it may feel like nothing is happening, actually there are deeper changes taking place. It’s a productive and necessary time.

I was given a Goddess card at a recent yoga class. On full moon. The words read:

“This upheaval is necessary, your lesson will come when the dust has settled”

If we were to keep moving, to keep finger-pointing, we are incessantly kicking up the dust. What would happen in your life right now if you gave yourself permission for the dust to settle?

Create some relief for a friend today – share this post with them and remind them that sometimes we all need a little space to get stuff done.

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