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Monday, January 4, 2021

Thinking About…Nothing

I’m going to work harder in 2021 at doing nothing. It will be good to add this to my repertoire of life adjustments as I age. More on this in a moment.

I’ve got other things I’m mastering. For example, I’m no longer trying to get anywhere. You know, like climbing some corporate ladder. Or building a better resume. Or “getting in good” with people who can advance my career. I’m passing on all of that. “Upward mobility” is off my list. It’s very freeing.

Here’s another step forward I’ve made. I’m not working at trying to impress anyone. It doesn’t matter how many Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections I have. Nope. I’ve scratched off “Become More Famous” as a life objective. None of this matters to me. It sort of did in years past. Also, very freeing.

A few weeks back, I stumbled onto this article in The Times: “How I Learnt the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing.” Oooh. You mean, there’s an ART to this? Apparently so. And at least three books on the topic: Niksen: The Power of Doing Nothing; Niksen: The Dutch Art of Doing Nothing; and Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing by Olga Mecking.

I’d not heard of this word “niksen.” There was a “Nixon” I remember, and a lot of people wanted nothing to do with him! Make no mistake about that!

I’m pretty sure there were highly skilled niksen-ites in the military when I served. In fact, we sometimes were told to stand around and do nothing. Better yet, we got paid for it! And sometimes promoted!

From the aforementioned article, the author Olga Mecking found the Dutch “may be seen to have consciously uncoupled ‘busyness’ from their conception of personal success and happiness—even productivity.” She found a researcher “who studies alternative status symbols…who thinks that the Dutch have found the perfect work-life balance.”

Among our Dutch experts in niksen, they respect leisure time but are highly productive in their work time. Lest we mock this call to doing nothing, a year ago the Netherlands moved into fifth place in the UN World Happiness Report. (I’m curious as to how happy the person is who had to compile that report.)

One proficient in niksen will take a bike ride with no particular destination in mind. Or similarly, start walking and go where the spirit leads. Ms. Mecking says, “You don’t even have to clear your thoughts or listen to music or get into a certain posture.” Thank the Lord for that. I hate yoga.

Okay what isn’t considered niksen? Checking Facebook or Instagram for hours. Or watching “how-to videos.” Anything that seems like it’s, well, work! Yech! But just staring out a window apparently does qualify. Good. I’ve done plenty of that and have developed a penchant for it.

Apparently, more and more people are feeling “nothing” when it comes to Christmas cards. We sent out about 90 this year. I think we received about 30. Oh well, next year maybe this means Rhonda and I will have more time for niksen!

Jesus of Nazareth was way ahead of the game on this. He had no appointment book. No deadlines. Had visits for as long as He chose. And offered some great advice. Like this:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)

Whew. All this writing has required thinking and that is hard work. Excuse me while I take a break. My dog and I have some windows from which to gaze.

Maybe I’ll rename my dog Niksen!

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

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