How doing nothing can help you achieve your goals

I’ve been watching my patterns of work and life for quite some time and there’s an interesting cycle appearing. Every six weeks or so my ‘things to do list’ drops to basically nothing, leaving me with plenty of time to reflect on what I’ve managed to accomplish, how well I’ve managed to do it and to then plan the next steps of where I want to go.

Sounds great doesn’t it – to have downtime to reflect and re-evaluate. But there’s been a nagging little voice from within telling me that I’m letting time slip away. Shouldn’t I be achieving something, rather than sitting here reflecting and planning?

Initially, I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing anything, and wondered if maybe I’d been infiltrated by too much exposure to Nike ads. But then I realised that the process of reflection is often as valid as the actual doing. How are you supposed to set the right goals if you don’t take the time to re-evaulate what you’ve done, and perhaps realign where you’d like to go in the future?

If I’d been thinking more about my yoga teachings than listening to the critical voice inside my head I’d have remembered the ethic of Svadhyaya, or self study and reflection. Yoga suggests that constant reflection and observation of one’s behaviour, goals and achievements is essential to our happiness.

Thankfully, there are still moments in our society when we are encouraged to reflect: what are New Year’s resolutions if not a chance to reassess our lives and state an intention to live differently? When you begin to observe yourself closely, you are likely to find there are other times throughout the year when a burst of activity flows naturally into a period of reflection; indeed, you might observe a similar phenomenon occurring on a daily basis, if you enjoy – or crave – a dose of quiet time in the morning or evening after a day of go, go. go.

With a little bit of self-observation you can learn to identify your state of being and usefully harness those periods of reflection – and you’ll usually find that the following period of action gets you so much further towards your carefully chosen goals.

Image by Fiona McGinty

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