The Right to Do Nothing

It’s a tricky one. Overuse it, and you’ll end up doing nothing on plenty of days when you haven’t actually earned it. To the driven individual, however, the opposite is the problem: When will you allow yourself to completely turn off?

As a writer, I have so many daily and weekly commitments, doing nothing feels unfathomable. Between push-ups, meditation, and this very blog, there really aren’t any days when I “do nothing” aka am completely unproductive. On some days, of course, the pull to do so is still very strong. When I’m sick, for example, or after I shipped a big project. The best I can do is the minimum, and depending on one’s standards, that minimum might still be quite the high bar.

When you do something every day, you know it’ll always get done. You don’t have to worry about losing your edge — but you also don’t get that nice, liberating feeling — the lying-down, fully-stretched-out-limbs kind — of a day with zero obligations.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m a miser for denying myself this feeling, or if it’s a young man’s foolish dream to begin with. Once you have children, I imagine you won’t have a zero-obligation day for the next 20 years. You forfeit your right to do nothing. Perhaps it’s best to give it up voluntarily beforehand?

I don’t have the perfect answer to this conundrum. I just know my desire for space is changing over the years. As I get older, I’d often rather do nothing than something irrelevant, and sometimes, I plainly just don’t feel like doing anything at all.

Overall, however, I still rarely get that feeling, and it seems like I’ll do plenty even if, on occasion, I exercise my right to do nothing. How long will that hold? Who knows? But your right to do nothing is worth thinking about — and worth trying to cash in when you really need it.