The Inaction Model Of Action

…or How to Let Problems Take Care of Themselves


Published:

© Andy Singer

People often ask me, “How come you always look so calm and centered? I’ve seen your desk and it’s piled with stacks of bills, manuscripts, clown noses, leftover food containers, plumbing parts… I just don’t understand how someone with so much on their plate can approach their life with so much serenity. What’s your secret?”

Years ago I was like most people: stressed out, continually late, a full agenda with no place to park. I spent my day rushing to solve one problem only to find two more cropping up before I was through. I had two jobs, with barely enough time in between them to drive home for a few hours of shut-eye before I was stuck back in a morning rush hour traffic jam. Yet I was still falling behind in my payments, in a constant state of dishevelment and confusion, hyper and exhausted at the same time.

Then, almost by accident, I discovered a basic principle of life that saved me from a nervous or physical breakdown. Because I was trying to do more than was humanly possible, and therefore running so far behind schedule that I’d never be able to catch up, eventually a natural consequence occurred. Some of the things at the bottom of my to-do list never got done. There simply kept being more urgent things that would get added to top of the list. Eventually the portion of the list that had some of these delayed action items got lost, but I didn’t even notice. I just kept scrambling to catch up. Then one day I stumbled upon that lost part of my to-do list, and as I looked at each of the undone items realized something profound. I didn’t need to do any of them anymore! It was either too late, or the problem had taken care of itself. Even though I had done nothing I was able to cross all these projects off my list.

I thought about how hard I would have had to work to take care of many of these to-do items. For example, one of the projects had been to rebuild the carburetor of my car. But subsequently I’d lent that car out to a friend who had gotten into an accident and totaled it. I’d already collected the insurance money and gotten a new car. If I had been conscientious and fixed that carburetor my friend would still have totaled the car, and the result would have been the same, except for the hours of painstaking work I’d put in to rebuild the carburetor. By not doing anything I’d saved myself tons of work and wound up with the same totaled car. What a revelation! Think of all the time, effort and mess I’d saved!

Or how about my gardening project. I’d been intending to dig some beds in my yard to plant a garden, but never had the time to do it. Then one day my sewer backed up and it turned out I needed to have the plumbers come and dig up my entire yard to replace the sewer pipes. If I’d had a garden planted there they would have destroyed it. Instead, by procrastinating, they wound up digging up my yard for me. By the time they were done, all I need to do was hoe for a few minutes and then stick some tomato and pepper plants into the ground.

Then there was the table that I had promised to build for my girlfriend. But before I got around to it she dumped me for a furniture salesman. So I was really off the hook. I let him worry about getting her a table.

Once I began to see the pattern emerge, I started to have a different attitude about my to-do list. Instead of rushing around trying to take care of everything at once, or working feverishly to finish things before their deadlines, I decided that a far better tactic would be to only do the things on the list that I really wanted to do. I would pick the item I most wanted to do first, and then work my way down the list of favorites. Now, each project I worked on made me happy, and I didn’t want to rush to finish it; I wanted to savor each experience. The rest of the projects on the list would just have to wait, either until I was inspired to work on them, or until they became obsolete, impossible, or morphed into something more fun to work on.

OK, there were some consequences. I lost one of my jobs. But I never really liked being a pet food taster to begin with. I was only test tasting Fido’s dinners to try to get ahead on my various payments. Now I was forced to downsize because I could no longer afford to have a castle with a moat and drawbridge, equipped with cable TV in every room, including the dungeon. But the truth is I couldn’t afford all that even when I had it. Instead of working my butt off to try to pay for a life I didn’t have time for, I found that I had plenty of time to enjoy the life that I could afford. The more I simplified, the shorter my to-do list became and the more time I had to create a to-do life. I stopped making a list of what I wanted to do in the future and just did what I wanted to do in the moment.

So you’re right, my desk is a mess. But I can still find what I need when I need it. It’ll be exactly where I last left it. Occasionally I will dig into the bottom of some of my piles, kind of like an archeologist doing an excavation of an ancient civilization. The civilization of the old me. Usually I’ll find some long lost project, the reason for which I can only guess at, that doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. Into the recycling bin it will go, to make room for something more exciting on the top of the pile.

Raymond Lesser is the publisher of Funny Times, America’s funniest newspaper ($26 for 12 issues available at funnytimes.com). Copyright 2016 Funny Times Inc. Reprinted with permission.

See also:
How To Live In Interesting Times
Four Easy Ways To Try Out A New You

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April 24, 2018

Word from a long ago love, friend or acquaintance could arrive this morning. Venus is on the move, transition from the last degree of Taurus into charming Gemini during the noon hour. Don’t be surprised by an encounter that makes your heart sing…
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April 2018

Usui Holy Fire II Reiki I Prerequisite: a desire to learn Reiki Study includes the history of Reiki, the Reiki principles, the hand positions used to give Reiki to yourself and to others,...

Cost: $175 (pre-registration required)

Where:
The Studio at One Earth
191 Emery Mills Road
Shapleigh, ME  04076
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Sponsor: The Studio at One Earth
Telephone: 207-636-2500
Contact Name: The Studio at One Earth
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Sunday yoga is back! Hatha Yoga with meditation to get you ready to tackle your spring intentions. Sign up for series or drop in. 

Cost: $75/5 classes; drop in $17.00

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Center
176 Jackson Rd
Devens, MA
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Sponsor: Dragonfly Wellness Center
Telephone: 978-227-8297
Contact Name: Anita Perry
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Have you done yoga before but feel a little rusty? Haven't been on your mat in a while? Yoga Basics is a great place to begin again. Do you feel you need motivation to jump-start your...

Cost: $60

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
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Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-969-8968
Contact Name: Brian Serven
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This workshop is part of the At the Heart of the Matter: a series of workshops about all things HEART. How do we connect with our hearts? And what keeps us from staying connected? In this...

Cost: $35

Where:
Newtonville, MA


Telephone: 617-913-0683
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Feel the bliss of opening your spine, while being totally supported and meticulously aligned. Great for sciatica and low back pain! Classes also held Saturday mornings.

Cost: $18 drop in

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
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Sponsor: Bliss Through Yoga
Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice
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As springtime rolls around, many of us get out our trash bags, buckets, and boxes in order to clean out and tidy up our homes and offices. Physically cleaning our spaces is great and all, but did...

Cost: Free

Where:
WeWork
31 St. James Ave
Boston, MA  02116
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Sponsor: The Kabbalah Center
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Ayurvedic practitioner. Presenting a 28-day program designed to initiate and maximize detoxification and nourishment of your body, mind and soul, inspiring results that can last a lifetime. For...

Where:
Concord, MA


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This workshop is part of the At the Heart of the Matter: a series of workshops about all things HEART. What does it mean to be deeply touched inside? To feel something deeply? To be connected?...

Cost: $35

Where:
Newtonville, MA


Telephone: 617-913-0683
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Join Mediums Laura Wooster and Andrew Dee for an evening of mediumship! In addition to sharing how you also can become more aware of your connection to passed loved ones, Laura and Andrew will...

Cost: $40

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
90 Main Street
Andover, MA  01835
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Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
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YogaLife studio would like to offer this opportunity to slow it down, step back, notice your breath and sit quietly in community. Join us Thursdays from 5:40-6:30 PM. No Yoga...

Cost: Free

Where:
YogaLife Institute
6 Chestnut Street
Suite A
Exeter, MA  03833
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Telephone: 603-969-8968
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Ann Barker will be seeing clients on Friday, April 27th and Saturday, April 28th at Balance Bethlehem. Call to book your appointment today! This non-invasive screening utilizes a thermal...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Balance Bethlehem
2087 Main Street
Bethlehem, NH  03574
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Sponsor: Ann Barker
Telephone: 603-897-9645
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Friday, April 27 - Sunday, April 29, 2018 April Ropes and Ritu Kapur Sohum’s 3rd Annual Retreat will be offered in Beautiful Berkshires, The Spirit Fire Meditative Retreat Center in...

Cost: $385

Where:
Spirit Fire Retreat Center
407 W. Leyden Road
Leyden, MA  01337
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Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
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April 27 - 29, 2018 What if there were 5 love languages in the bedroom…and you had a secret decoder ring? Imagine the erotic satisfaction you could unlock…for yourself and for...

Cost: $1097*/couple; Early bird $997* by Feb 14, 2018

Where:
Angel’s Rest Retreat Center
63 North County Road
Leyden, MA  01301
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Sponsor: Conscious Intimacy
Telephone: 415-244-1652
Contact Name: Brynn Bishop
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Ann Barker will be seeing clients on Friday, April 27th and Saturday, April 28th at Balance Bethlehem. Call to book your appointment today! This non-invasive screening utilizes a thermal...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Balance Bethlehem
2087 Main Street
Bethlehem, NH  03574
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Sponsor: Ann Barker
Telephone: 603-897-9645
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India Discovery Center is pleased to announce the next seminar in the “Let us explore the Cultural History of India.” The fourth event entitled “Seminar on the Golden Period,...

Cost: $20

Where:
Bemis Hall
15 Bedford Road
Lincoln, MA  01773
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Sponsor: India Discovery Center
Telephone: 781-259-0029
Contact Name: Bijoy Misra
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World Qigong Taichi Day is celebrated globally, and at Eastover, it is a day of free presentations, demonstrations and mini-classes offered by nationally recognized leaders in Taichi, Qigong,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Eastover Estate & Retreat Center
430 East Street
Lenox, MA  01240
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Sponsor: Eastover Estate & Retreat Center
Telephone: 866-264-5139
Contact Name: Yingxing Wang
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April 28 - 29, 2018 Led by Marconics Teacher Practitioners:  Josh Brotherton and Nadine Muhammad To register:  From US:  Tel: 774-987-9449 Email: yourhealinglight@gmail.com...

Cost: $450

Where:
Suffield Massage Therapy and Wellness Center
230 Mountain Rd
Suffield, CT  06078
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Sponsor: Marconics
Telephone: 774-987-9449
Contact Name: Josh Brotherton
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With award winning author Nancy Smith. Starts April 28th, 7-month certification program about Akashic records. One Saturday a month, 10am - 4pm. womenofwisdominc.com

Cost: $860

Where:
Women of Wisdom
North Easton, MA


Telephone: 508-230-3860
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Be a part of healing history! The last saturday of April each year in hundreds of cities, spanning over 80 nations, people come together…to breath together and provide a healing vision...

Cost: Free

Where:
Elm Park
Russell St
Worcester, MA  01609
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Sponsor: Kung Fu & Tai Chi Academy of New England
Telephone: (774) 321-6611
Contact Name: Sifu Gary
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2018 Eclectic-Fest! Our fourth event that is building community, celebrating all spiritual beliefs and practice. Free parking and free admission. Featuring aura photography by the...

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Taunton V.F.W.
82 Ingell Street
Taunton, MA  02780


Sponsor: The Enchanted Forest Taunton
Telephone: 774-208-6195
Contact Name: Brother Granite
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