On figuring it out

What percentage of your day do you suppose you’re in your head, trying to figure something out?

Maybe you’re thinking about what’s for dinner or using concepts and memory to solve a problem at work.

Maybe you’re trying to arrive at the best way to discipline your kids, ask your boss if you can leave work early, or approach your wife about cleaning her toothpaste out of the sink.

Or perhaps you’re planning for the future, visualizing how you want something to work out, or dreaming about your next vacation.

So what’s your estimate? 60% of your day? 75%? 90%?

Most people I’ve asked estimate at least 85-90% of their day is spent in deep thought, analysis, or figure-it-out mode.

Have you seen what happens when you drop the planning and figuring and just be?

What I tend to find is that things work themselves out. Incredibly, every time I stop making things my job, those things I drop become non-issues.

When I stop obsessively calling my doctor to ask advice and schedule my follow up, her office calls me.

When I quit trying to mentally construct my next business move, an opportunity shows up.

And when I stop worrying about dinner we get take-out and everyone is happy. (In full disclosure, I never actually worry about dinner. But my husband tells me that when he stops worrying about it, we get take-out and everyone is happy).

Not only do things work themselves out, but they do so in a way that tends to yield infinitely better results than my limited intellect ever could.

If this is true, why do we spend so much time and energy trying to figure things out? Why don’t we just relax into the moment and allow the energy of life to provide insights and solutions as it always, naturally seems to do?

My hunch is that it’s mostly because we don’t trust it.

We believe our input is needed. I hear concerns like these all the time:

“If I don’t figure it out, everything will fall apart.”

“If I didn’t plan or make things happen, I’d be lazy. I’d have no preferences and I’d be boring.”

“If I didn’t scare myself into working so hard I’d probably sleep or watch talk shows all day.”

Now let me introduce you to just two of the roughly 602,000,000 people on earth who practically never get caught up in their heads trying to figure things out. They live almost entirely in the present moment, following only their feelings about what they want to do next.

They are my offspring. Along with the other 600 million or so kids under the age of 5, they have relatively little thought for the vast majority of their day.

They don’t believe they need to put much mental effort into life. They have an implicit trust in universal energy and they see firsthand that when they allow themselves to be guided by joy, life is pretty good.

Their lives aren’t falling apart, even in the absence of planning and forethought and with a minimum of parental hovering.

When they’re hungry, they ask for a snack. When they have a lot of pent up energy, they run, jump and dance. When they are tired, they rest.

They don’t think about it because they don’t have to.

They don’t tell themselves they “should” get some exercise and they don’t count the hours of sleep they’re about to get and then predict how happy they will feel the next day. They just move when they feel like moving and sleep when they feel like sleeping.

They have a lot of strong preferences, they certainly aren’t lazy, and you would never in a million years say that they do nothing with their lives.

They do a ton of stuff with their lives…way more than most adults I know (especially when those adults are paralyzed by indecision or numbing out because they feel too much stress). They create and laugh and play and rest and then do it all over again.

I’ve never once heard them say that they need to plan for their week, yet they do an extraordinary amount of living each and every week.

I’ve never overheard them trying to figure out how to have better relationships or enjoy life more or focus on their priorities. Yet they have effortlessly rich and simple relationships with everyone they meet. They enjoy a life that revolves around their priorities without knowing what priorities are.

They do a lot of that just being that I mentioned and it seems to work pretty well for them. And for most of the other children I’ve seen, too.

You’re right—they don’t have jobs to go to or bills to pay. No one depends on them for anything or expects them to do or be anything other than what they are.

I’m not suggesting that you strip down your responsibilities to nothing and finger paint all day. I’m only suggesting that you remember what it was like to be a kid, before you lived from your head.

And consider bringing a little more of that quality to today’s bills and responsibilities.

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