I've been coaching for over seven years now, and the biggest force I routinely battle is busyness. We're so used to being busy and feel so chronically driven by our never-ending to-do lists, that when we finally stop it feels uncomfortable or even stressful.
When you clear a space in your calendar or suddenly find yourself with unexpected time (i.e. if something gets canceled), what do you do? Do you immediately use it as an opportunity to run an errand or catch up on a task?
What if every time something got canceled or your plans changed, you did NOTHING? And what if you deliberately created space in your calendar to do nothing? By nothing, I mean nothing to do with your to-do list, or anything else you might feel pressured or guilted into doing. And, if someone immediately tries to get you to do something else (something for them) with that suddenly available time, you say no. And do NOTHING.
So many people want their lives to change. If you're reading this, you're probably one of them. You're tired of being in a rut, tired of being tired, tired of having so many responsibilities and tasks and so little fulfillment.
How do you break out of that rut? By creating dedicated "empty" space in your life. When you successfully hit the pause button and step off the hamster wheel, you'll be able to see your life from a fresh perspective and will finally be able to think about how you might start to make changes.
If you keep going and going without stopping, you'll never discover the (often surprising) clarity and answers you long for. In my personal life and also as a coach, I've seen over and over again that when you stop, even just for an hour, answers and ideas present themselves with almost no work on your part.
When I was earning my living as a doctor and trying to figure out what else I could do to bring me joy, I discovered the answers by sitting in an Italian cafe around the corner from my home, drinking tea from a hand-painted cup and chewing on biscotti. It felt like another world there.
I'd bring inspirational books with me to flip through, as well as a journal to jot down ideas and would daydream about living a life I'd love, and what that might look like. It was as if by gifting myself that time and space I was showing (and telling) myself that my dreams and longings mattered. Those dreams slowly emerged in that cafe, as did the plan to make it all happen. That would never have happened by trying to brainstorm in between patient visits or while running errands.
I was reminded of this phenomenon recently by two women who are participating in my international "Live a Life You Love Club" year-long program (specific details, as always, are hidden to protect confidentiality).
One habitually busy woman who usually had more business and social invitations than she could possibly say yes to, started to say no. She suddenly found herself with islands of "nothing"time, which she worked hard to protect. During that time, a novel began to emerge. She has written a significant chunk of it already, so wonderful. Apparently this book was sitting there in her head, and virtually wrote itself. The story had just been waiting for the time and space to make itself known, time and space that until recently had been lacking. How many great novels would never have been written, if the author hadn't taken the time to stop and write them?
Another woman decided to leave a work position that she found unfulfilling and unstimulating. She wanted to take a sabbatical period to rest and reflect on what she might actually want to do. She found it very difficult and even awkward, as at first she was doing "a whole lot of nothing". When people asked her how she was spending her time she felt embarrassed that she didn't have an impressive answer.
She held on, resisting the powerful urge to fill her time with constructive things (for the sake of feeling or looking busy) or to grab another equally unfulfilling work position. She journaled and wrote, reflecting on who she really was and the kind of contribution she'd love to make to society.
After a few weeks of this, she suddenly got a phone call. It was a job offer. A dream job that she didn't even know existed. Because she had waited and created the space, when the opportunity came she was able to recognize it and was ready and available to take it.
She was fortunate to be in a financial situation to safely take some time off from work, and not everyone can create space on this scale. Still, the key is that she knew she had to create some space in her life, and did it. She went through discomfort and angst while going against the grain, yet something beautiful came into that space she created.
The space you create may be big or small - even an hour in a hectic week may be enough to get started. Please find time for it somehow, and protect that space jealously so that what wants to come into your life has room to come in.
The very best ideas and inspirations seem to need a wide open, uncluttered space to come in.
Don't feel discouraged if this doesn't happen right away. It may take developing a regular practice of time on your own for your mind (and life) to begin to truly relax and let inspiration and new opportunities come in to play.
Have you had an experience of creating space and then having new ideas and opportunities come into your life? I'd love to hear about it in the comment section below.
Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. is a medical doctor, health and happiness expert, life and health coach, professional speaker, flamenco dancer, and the author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You, dedicated to helping people worldwide get healthy, find happiness and enjoy more meaningful lives that they love. Dr. Biali has been featured as an expert on the Today Show and the Ricki Lake Show as well as many other major media outlets, and is available for keynote presentations, workshops/retreats, media commentary, and private life and health coaching.
Copyright Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. 2014