Why do we keep doing a lot even when we question the purpose and when ROI dwindles? Often it’s because we know that we will be otherwise anxious about doing nothing and, potentially having nothing. Driven to escape from this anxiety, we busy ourselves with endless actions and become a victim of a situation where we are unable to stop, or, merely slow down. But deep down we know, something is wrong; It’s not fulfilling; And everything seems to drift away from the results we aim to have.
I was no exception. At the beginning of this year, I jumped at every opportunity of working with new clients and the excitement of new business partners. With an over-committed calendar, my personal life suffered first. I was always yawning with low energy when my daughter and hubby finished their day and wanted a conversation. Soon this tiredness appeared at work and I struggled to bring my whole self.
And then I had quite a few clients who could not stop working even when it hampered their health, mentally and physically. While I served as a mirror for them, I also saw myself in the reflection. I was living the same struggle where I also kept saying “life can wait.” But no, there was no reason life would wait, because life would not.
I stepped on a brake. I slowed down social media engagement. I removed LinkedIn and work email from my mobile phone. I stopped taking on new activities and paused collaborations with much-cherished partners. Combined, I probably have said “no” to hundreds of hours of work by now.
The most difficult part of this was facing the anxiety of nothingness. These questions came up: What if I get no more work? What if I stop growing? What if the world forgets me? What will become of me?
But I decided to live my life now, even if it meant facing the unsettling anxiety. I was ready for a big drop in inbound work and financial gains.
Interestingly, that slowdown did not happen. Instead, my high-value clientele actually grew multiple-fold during this period. In plain terms, I worked less, got more, and became happier.
It sounds like magic but I have to admit that, great things can only happen when we make space for ourselves. Because if we fill our life with other things, how can the better things come in?
To know what’s important, we have to pause and examine things in our life. To make this possible, we will have to slow down instead of getting pulled into the abyss of endless activities.
As I became increasingly comfortable with the “nothingness” and “slowness”, not only my priorities became clearer, new possibilities also emerged. I have more mental space and am able to be more present in my personal life. I can immerse myself in gardening, reading, life chores, or let curiosity take me anywhere I want to be.
It also made a huge difference in my coaching practice. Instead of overwhelming my schedule with many coaching sessions, I now make sure I have plenty of time before and after each coaching session. I get to dedicate more mental space for each client. The paradigm shift started when I started coaching in nature.
Coaching in the companion of butterflies, birds, and toads
I started with the sea. In the sea breeze, we were toying with the similarly subtle, quick-fleeing human mind. In the embrace of nature, a lot of heavy things we examine become airy, like a feather. Thoughts come and go like waves. It’s almost miraculous how it is much easier to let go when we are not physically contained and constrained in a room.
Then we ventured into the Botanical garden. Sometimes we sit on the grass by the lake with monitor lizards lurking around – they were chased away by some fearless toddlers – a perfect metaphor for irrational fear. Butterflies flicker their wings on our hands, to devour our sweat, so I was told. A bird failed his mating attempt but continued the beautiful song nonetheless. We imagine ourselves conductors for a symphony played by some toads.
More often, we do nothing but see life. Through a conversation with each other and with nature, we see our own life and we see a life larger than our own.
There is beauty in nothingness. Perhaps the anxiety will be there when we face it. But don’t run away. Pause. Connect with life. You will find wonders not only within, but also outside, our little self. We are larger than the “self” that our thoughts evolve around all day. For all the knowledge that nature encompasses, is what our insignificant being was born to be part of.