Don't Just Do Something: Sit There!

_MG_3050Imagine this scenario for a moment: you're desperately trying to catch some sleep so you don't wake up exhausted the next day when someone barges into your room and tells you that if you don't fall asleep right this very second, you won't have another chance to do so for a very long time. If you don't get your shut-eye in and get it in pronto, you're going to be exhausted for days to come. Something is going to happen that's going to make it difficult for you to rest again for quite a while, and you absolutely have to get in whatever sleep you can before the sun rises and its too late. Suddenly, you're urgent and panicking. Attempting to force yourself to fall asleep, you wind up psyching yourself out and staying awake until the alarm bells go off. What was intended to be a warning that pressured you into getting some rest wound up doing the exact opposite: the frantic nature of the task made the task completely impossible.

Now imagine you're off on an island somewhere, totally secluded, and there's no one there but you. There are no deadlines, no crazy people coming into your bedroom at night demanding that you fall asleep instantly or else. Now that you're in this peaceful place, sleep comes as easily as the wind that softly brushes across your face. Life's perfect rhythm begins to manifest among the quiet waves that require no push from you, but freely flow just as the night sky evaporates into the morning light.

The intended take-away from this drawn out analogy is that urgency works the exact opposite way of how we want it to. Instead, taking one's hands off the steering wheel and refusing to clutch it for dear life when we're afraid we don't know where we're going is the only way we're going to get to where we're trying to go. I discovered this again last night as I continued making the final preparations for a 300-person event I am planning as part of my job. As the major undertaking is now only 3 short days away, my stomach slowly fell to the floor as I realized I couldn't find the keys to the building where the event will be held.

It's not like I was in possession of the only copy of keys to the building in existence (I assume), but the fact that I'd misplaced them had me in a total frantic panic. I searched for hours upon hours, scouring my car and every pocket to every piece of clothing I'd worn the day before. Finally, it was time to come clean to my boss that I'd apparently lost the keys he would need by 10 AM the following morning.

I explained myself over the phone, and after a short gasp, I was met with this advice:

"Don't do anything now. Stop looking for the keys tonight."

It seemed counterintuitive, but of course my gut and past experience confirmed it was the right thing to do. The only chance I had at finding the keys was to stop obsessively searching for them. In order to clear my head enough to remember where I might have put them, I would need to take the pressure off.

I went to bed and woke up about three hours later at 3 AM imagining every worst-case-scenario that could come to pass: the event would get cancelled because I did, in fact, have the only set of keys, or worse yet, everyone would find out that the event was cancelled because I had the only set of keys and I lost them.

I took a deep breath.

Suddenly and without asking, it came to me. I remembered what I couldn't think of before I'd given up my search. I'd actually worn a different jacket yesterday than usual, and as soon as I realized I'd checked the wrong coat pockets, I bolted out of bed to find the right coat and find the magical keys inside of it. "Yes!" I whisper-shouted as I clutched the keys in my hand.

Someone in our collective past once shouted the frazzled words that continue to make their way into the ears of many a panicked individual (myself included):

"Don't just sit there, do something!!!"

A wiser man, however, adhered to the reverse. In moments of confusion, worry and haste, he knew better. He didn't just do something...he sat there.