How do you respond to the idea of doing nothing? Does it feel like a passive state to which you easily default, happily surrendering your efforts to do? Or does it feel like an effort, a list of actions that must be completed before you are able to not do? In either case, doing nothing is something that’s essential for your personal and professional wellbeing.

As a leadership development expert, I write a lot about the importance of pursuing, changing, stretching, communicating, growing, and other “ing” words that can sound like a lot of work. I stand by this perspective. I also recognize the need to pause . . . and . . . just . . . breathe.

While delivering valuable results, our pursuits of accomplishment and self-improvement can exhaust our mental, emotional, and physical reserves. Ironically, our efforts to be better can actually make us feel worse.

Sometimes the solution to a suffocating workload is simply to do less. We may be able to breathe more easily by expelling tasks, extending deadlines, or eliminating expectations.

For high achievers and others not inclined to lower the bar, process is the solution. Intentionally balancing expending energy with replenishing reserves helps sustain successful journeys as well as destinations. We can keep our reserves full by taking time to breathe.

In a matter of seconds, a few deep breaths can stabilize heart rates, reduce anxiety, and clear the mind. If you notice that your breathing is shallow or that you feel flustered, take a moment to recalibrate. Sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Close your eyes and take three slow, deep breaths.

Incorporating weekly activities aimed at mental, physical, or spiritual wellbeing can provide a routine of fresh air. Whether it’s through quiet meditation, a stroll in the woods, or intense exercise, make time to regularly connect with something beyond your thoughts.

Occasionally we want or need extended respite. At least once a year, try to carve out a trip or “staycation” away from ongoing responsibilities. The energy you can gain from a few days of breathing freely will help you accomplish, grow, and thrive.

How to thrive: Consider where you can benefit from taking more literal and figurative breaths. Incorporate some practices into your schedule and find a friend, coach, mentor, or app to hold yourself accountable.


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