When I’m in France, I take so much pleasure in doing absolutely nothing most days. It’s something that feels entirely natural there, but hard to practice when I’m home in the States. The art of doing nothing is embraced by the French and feared by Americans.
The Art of Doing Nothing
I always marvel at the fact that I can sit in a cafe in Paris for 3+ hours, just sipping on coffee and staring at passersby, yet can’t do the same here in California.
In Paris, I’m not bored, or worse, anxious to get up and going after I’ve finished my coffee. In California, when I’ve finished my coffee, I’ve started fidgeting with my things and packed up my bag.
Why? Well, I’m sure that in Paris there is an element of “vacation” mode that allows me to relax, but I think it’s more about the atmosphere.
Walk into any Parisian cafe during the lunch hour and you’ll see it filled with white collar workers enjoying a warm, leisurely lunch. Walk into an American cafe and you’ll see someone eating alone, hurriedly downing a sandwich or some other quick bite.
In America, we’ve learned that if you’re not doing something, you’re not being productive. And the atmosphere and vibe you get in America reveals that. I know I’ve fallen victim to this mentality countless times, especially as someone who is self-employed.
Sitting at a cafe in the middle of the day for 2 hours can bring twinges of guilt, where I feel like I should be doing something productive for my business rather than sitting down needlessly and doing nothing. For many in America, the option of a 2 hour break during their workday isn’t even there.
More than that, I’ve noticed that even on our days off, many of us struggle to just sit back, go with the flow, and give ourselves some much needed time to just do absolutely nothing. Even when our jobs aren’t pulling us back to our desks, we’re filling our calendars with endless activities.
The kids’ soccer practice. Gym meet. Baby showers. House errands. So much of what we do in our time off is taken up by extracurricular activities and social obligations.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to meet up with family and friends or have your kids participate in a sport. But it’s also good to balance these out with some periods of having nothing planned out.
In my own life, I’ve learned that this means being extra choosy with the activities I participate in or the invitations I accept. If I’m not great friends with the host (or mommy-to-be) of that baby shower, I’m probably not going to go.
I made it my mission last year to stop saying yes to everything, and more importantly, to not feel bad about lying on the sofa doing absolutely nothing on a Saturday night.
We all deserve to have peace, calm, and relaxation in our lives. It’s one of the reasons why I think the societies that practice this concept of doing nothing often live such happier lives.
So I want to know, do you embrace the art of doing nothing in your life?