One of the greatest lessons for me in life has been to understand the ‘Do nothing – get ahead’ paradox. To a textbook Type A, gold star seeking person like myself this is so at odds with how I think, what I believe and how I behave that even becoming aware of it was quite extraordinary.
So what is the ‘Do nothing – get ahead’ paradox? This is simply the discovery that sometimes in life you get closer to where you want to be by doing nothing rather than something. The paradox applies in nature – if you are stuck in a rip while swimming in the ocean the best way to get where you want to go ( back to land) is to lie back, do nothing and let the rip take you out to sea so that you can then swim easily back to shore. In dating situations the best way to get a guy to coming running back to you is to do nothing or, more specifically, do anything but have anything to do with him. When negotiating a deal a lot of power can be gained by saying nothing or walking away from the negotiating table for some time before coming back into the discussion, at the right moment, to close the deal.
The interesting thing is that we are never taught the about the ‘Do nothing – get ahead’ paradox in school. In fact, if you are a Type A, gold star type of person you have been trained and, more importantly, you have bought into the the fallacy that more effort equals more reward. You believe that studying more equals better grades, that working harder brings you more money and that trying to please people brings you more love.
There is some truth in the fact that effort equals reward. Many a successful person has said that the ‘harder they worked the luckier they got.’ It is true you cannot get admitted to Harvard or be admitted to the bar or get into medical school without putting a considerable amount of effort into studying. It is also true that relationships take effort and more time and effort spent on family and friends can lead to a better/ closer relationship.
The point is we are brainwashed to believe that the only way to get ahead or anything you want in life is to push forward, make an effort and ‘go for it’. I’m now looking for ways to get where I want to go by doing nothing. It’s hard for me to do nothing, very, very hard! If I was caught in a rip I would probably be swimming back against it for eight hours straight. I struggle to stand back and let guys make the first move. I find it very hard to walk away from a negotiating table for no reason apart from the fact that I want to be part of the action. Yet all these actions take me further away from where I would like to be.
I’m learning to embrace the ‘Do nothing – get ahead’ paradox and get more of the things I want out of life. Which area of your life could you apply the ‘Do nothing – get ahead’ paradox? Work? Relationships? Health? Try doing nothing today and see how it helps you get ahead.
Originally published at elwinelliot.com