The Art of Nothingness: How Doing Less Can Help You Live Life To Its Fullest

I am nothing.

This doesn’t sound as exciting as “I am legend”, but it is much more accurate.

I am acutely aware today of my own nothingness. This does not mean that I am worthless; it just means that when I consider all those who came before me, all those who are here now, and all those who will come after me, I realize that my contributions to the world are smaller than the period I will use to end this sentence.

I do not find the realization of my own nothingness to be uninspiring. In fact, to me, it is quite the opposite. This awareness actually awakens me. It heightens my sense of urgency to spend my time on the things that really matter—and it can help you too.


How Nothingness Can Help You Life Life To Its Fullest

The Dangers of Inflation

Sometimes, when I am intensely involved in my work, I inflate the importance of my contributions and fool myself into believing that I must spend all my time making the [world a better place. I immerse myself in my work because I truly find myself believing that if I don’t do it, nobody else will because there is no one that can do it as I do.

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I find it rather insane that I spend so much of my time laboring for that which will ultimately be completely meaningless in just a few short years, months, days, or sometimes even hours.

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It is true that my impact may be felt, but its magnitude is tiny when put into perspective. This does not mean that I must not extend my hand and engage myself in my work; it just means that I must continually strive to keep the significance of my work in its proper perspective. I work to develop my talents. I work to fulfill my promise to provide for my family.

But when my work consumes all my time, I’m not providing for my family emotionally. This is how we become so unbalanced. We think that if we don’t answer that email at 1:00 AM, stay late to finish one more project or take that call while we are in Disneyland with our family, the world will end.

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It won’t. In fact, the only things that will end are the exhaustion, fatigue, and unhappiness that come with skewed priorities.

The Necessity of Focus

True balance in life comes from understanding this concept: focus. Once again, nothingness does not equal worthlessness. Each one of us capable of bringing value to the world every day. The fact that the value we bring is temporary does not mean that it is unimportant. Seeing the temporary nature of the value we bring helps us to put our life into perspective.

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The sooner we figure this out, the more we will enjoy our life. We will spend our time on the things that really matter. The work that we do does matter, but not as much as we often fool ourselves into believing.

Last week, I was faced with a difficult choice. I was busy with some work that I thought was pretty important, and I felt consumed by the responsibility to make a difference. At the same time, there were several family matters that were also calling my attention. I decided to spend time with my family, time that I initially felt I needed to get my work done. I chose to be there for my family and to delay my preparation efforts.

Now, the work that I was so focused on completing is nearly finished, and I can truly say that my impact would not have been any greater had I neglected my family and focused solely on getting it done. I am glad I chose to be with my family. I do not think I would be saying today, “I am glad I chose to give all my extra time to my work.” I don’t think you will ever say that either.

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The Takeaway

We only have a moment on this planet. You and I are free to decide how we spend it. No matter how involved and engaged we become in it, the work we do will never make us whole. We need the whole of our life to do that. You can be engaged without being consumed. You can do your job without giving up your life. Live today and love it.


Andrew ThornDr. Andrew Thorn provides behavioral-based leadership strategies to individuals who are seeking to bring their personal and professional responsibilities into full harmony. He has conducted confidential business over the past 20 years with senior leaders and C-level executives, and he has personally guided 2 of the top 50 business thinkers currently listed on The Thinkers 50. A pioneer and leader in the field of work/life balance, Dr. Thorn is widely recognized for his breakthrough thinking.

Photo by ♫zia

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