I’m sure you’ve heard the term “bias for action” before. You’ll find it on culture walls at many companies and it’s an ideal “trait” for new hires. Having a bias for action means you’re not afraid to make decisions and take action, even when (especially when) you face uncertainty. In a professional setting, this is a strong quality to have and has served many well. It sets the doers apart from the ones who are constantly judging and seeking answers to everything under the sun. Operating in uncertainty is a powerful skill and comes with the acceptance that you will be wrong some times and the humility to accept that. So all in all, a great attribute to have. However, over the past few months, I’ve noticed a few shortcomings in always having a bias for action and having a need to do doing something.

Doing without really thinking

We’re paid to intervene

Doing nothing

  1. Your brain is constantly processing information. When there’s a big decision to be made, you’ll have a nagging feeling from time to time. That’s usually a sign that your brain is trying to make sense of all the information in your head. It’s like when the fans on your laptop start and make that humming sound. By getting busy and doing things, you are diverting processing power to the activity at hand and thus reducing the bandwidth available to you brain to process the information related to the big decision. So getting busy with random things to calm your anxiety is not very helpful and will only give momentary satisfaction
  2. The realm of question is as vast as the realm of answers. When faced with a question, we quickly take a plunge into the realm of answers, trying to find the right one. But we rarely stop to question the question itself. By taking a pause and doing nothing, you start wondering why you’re even attempting to answer the question in the first place, and that can lead to some very interesting outcomes. The truth is that we are addicted to answers despite knowing that there are so many things we will never find answers to.

Doing nothing is way harder than it seems. Try sitting in one place for 30 mins with your eyes shut. It’s far from child’s play. Here is where I’ve found mediation to help a lot. I don’t know if it’s a direct correlation, but after listening to Naval Ravikant on a Tim Ferris’s podcast, I practiced sitting still for 60 mins everyday. After doing this for a while, I found that I could now spend periods of time doing nothing without having the urge to pick up my phone or be “productive”. In all honesty, I slip back into being prone to distractions very often and it’s still a work in progress

You can read more about the value of doing nothing in “The power of doing nothing at all” and “Why Doing Nothing is Actually One of the Best Things You Can Do”

Be open

To conclude, over the last few months, I’ve learnt the power and importance of taking a pause and doing nothing. Actions are like the tip of an ice berg. Just because it seems insignificant to the eye, it does not mean there isn’t a lot happening under the surface. When we’re doing nothing, we’re giving our minds space to do what it’s best at - think. In the moment this seems very awkward and is accompanied by emotions of guilt. Given that the world doesn’t pay you to do nothing, it’s of no surprise we are never taught the value of this and thus the negative emotions.

So if you’ve been feeling stuck at a big decision, try and do absolutely nothing about it, think about the question, be open and you might just find yourself inching towards to answer which you never expected.

a little bit of everything