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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February 22, 2018

After a hopeful start, a lethargic, laid back ambience colors most of the day. From early morning until evening the Taurus Moon, not noted for speed under the best of circumstances, floats void of course. The disengaged orb slows many things to a crawl…
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February 2018

Spend a cozy winter weekend with colleagues diving into the rich material contained within the Dàodéjīng. While each class builds upon the material covered in the previous...

Cost: $325

Where:
Roots and Wings Yoga and Healing Arts
317 North Main Street
Natick, MA  01760
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Sponsor: Eastern Medicinal Therapies Education Center
Telephone: 617-435-3586
Contact Name: Lauren Paap
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Great readings at a great rate - only $20 for 15 minutes. Join us for a great day with lots of specials too! Our web site is not currently able to take registrations for the psychic fair. Please...

Cost: $20 for a 15 minute reading

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
90 Main Street
Andover, MA  01810
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Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
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Join us for an afternoon of messages from your loved ones on the other side. As an empath and a healer, I am able to connect with random loved ones on the other side and connect them with the right...

Cost: $30 in advance/$35 day of show

Where:
Harvard Unitarian Universalist Church
9 Ayer Road
On The Common
Harvard, MA  01451
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Sponsor: Wachusett Music Series
Telephone: 978-365-2043
Contact Name: Jean or Denise
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February 18 - 23, 2018 With Rev. Michelle Renee Pelletier, founding director of the Center for Psychic Healing, Harwich, MA.

Where:
Calistoga Spa Hot Springs
Calistoga, CA


Sponsor: Center for Psychic Healing
Telephone: 707-849-7793
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Are you curious about yoga but don't know where to begin? The Intro to Yoga Series is a great place to start your practice. This series will provide a safe, non-competitive and welcoming...

Cost: $90 for series

Where:
YogaLife Institute
6 Chestnut St, Suite A
Exeter, NH  03833
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Telephone: 603-969-8968
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Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is...

Cost: $11-$15 per class

Where:
Chelmsford Wellness Center
3 Littleton Road, 2nd Floor
Westford, MA  01886
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Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
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A guided tour in discovering, confirming and verifying your personality, behaviors and habits. A three part series at the Waltham Public Library Monday, February 5 7:15PM Monday, February 12...

Cost: Free

Where:
Waltham Public Library
735 Main Street
Waltham, MA  02451
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Sponsor: Waltham Public Library
Telephone: 781-314-3429
Contact Name: Louise Goldstein
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February 20 - 22, 2017 Three day training including new techniques for advanced Reiki training, Reiki master training, and Holy Fire II upgrade. Includes discussion, demonstrations, practice...

Cost: $1025 ppd.

Where:
Women of Wisdom
, MA


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
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Experience the power of singing gospel music with more than 250 others as part of the Mystic Chorale, led by award-winning director and composer, Jonathan Singleton. Join Mystic as we prepare...

Cost: $105

Where:
First Parish Unitarian
630 Mass Ave.
Arlington , MA
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Sponsor: The Mystic Chorale
Telephone: 781-738-1920
Contact Name: Jai Kaur Annamaria
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Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is integrating into treatment plans. By...

Cost: $12-$17 per class

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Ceneter
176 Jackson Road
Devens, MA  01434
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Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
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Come by anytime during open shopping hours! Friday, February 23: 3:00 pm - 9:00 pm Saturday, February 24: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Sunday, February 25: 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm We are very...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
90 Main Street
Andover, MA  01810
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Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
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6 Week Series with Sherri Snyder-Roche Start your year with greater awareness. In Kundalini Yoga, we harness the mental, physical, and nervous energies of the body and put them under the...

Cost: $90

Where:
State of Grace Yoga and Wellness Center
104 East Hartford Ave.
Uxbridge, MA  01569
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Telephone: 508-278-2818
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Come by anytime during open shopping hours! Friday, February 23: 3:00 pm - 9:00 pm Saturday, February 24: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Sunday, February 25: 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm We are very...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
90 Main Street
Andover, MA  01810
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Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
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Romy Valdez There are few instruments like the Gong that can heal us through its purification properties of sound vibrations. In this energy field, the beginnings of removing all blocks can...

Cost: $30 early bird ($35 at the door)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
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Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
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