I am a little bit obsessed with the idea of empty space.
You see, life can get very busy. There is so much to do, we all get caught up in the business of living. In this state of perpetual motion, it is easy to get swept up by the currents of life demands, dragged along by the expectations of others or our environment.
If you want to live more intentionally, then you have to create a gap, you have to create empty space.
Empty space is a block of time, a presence of mind that exists separate from everything else. A created vacuum. This space is important because it pulls you out of the hustle and bustle of your life and places you above it. In this space, you can observe, analyse, reflect, make corrections and changes, strategise and push forward.
We access this space in meditation, in the blocks of time set aside for solitude and contemplation. We access it on our days off, in the times that are just for us, in the moments where we are free to exercise complete and deliberate autonomy.
But, empty space is not actually just empty, as I may have assumed all this time.
It actually has a lot of stuff going on in it.
And if empty space should fulfil its purpose at helping us live more intentionally and successfully, then empty space can take on four guises.
Space for rest
I’ve always understood empty space as a space for rest. That’s the first thing we need once we disconnect from the grind. We pull back to recover, to heal and revitalise.
If we don’t rest, we burn out fast.
Life is a marathon and we should approach it as such. It is tempting to just keep working, keep putting in more hours and effort. If it were possible, the most workaholic amongst us would rather stay on the grind and keep crushing it.
But that is not how it works. At some point, we will hit a wall. We are human, we need rest.
The time we take out to rest allows us to be even more productive once we get back to the grind.
Space for research
The best companies in the world spend a massive amount of manpower and money on research & development. That is because to stay competitive in an ever changing fast paced world, companies cannot afford to rely on the success of yesterday, they have to embrace new methods and new realities. They have to reinvent themselves.
What worked yesterday, might not work today.
It is the same with your life. Your sustained success in your career or life’s work depends on your ability to learn and assimilate new things. To discover what you need to know and do.
You will need to learn new skills, connect with new people, start or contribute to new projects. You will not find these things without doing research.
This means exploration. Look out to see what’s out there. Instead of going down the same routes and looking at the same things all the time. Explore new topics, new ideas, new tools.
Work deliberately to expose your self to new ideas, opportunities and possibilities.
It will keep you moving forward
Space for learning
Being a life long learner is absolutely necessary to growth and development.
As you do research and discover new paths to take, go ahead and dive right in. Learn how to learn. Learn new skills, new ideas, new tools. Learn new ways of looking at old things.
In doing this you stay fresh and mentally active instead atrophying into comfortable ruts.
Deepen your mastery of your craft. Revisit the basics, learn new techniques and solutions to problems, do creative studies. Become better, faster, more nuanced, and richer in your craft. You might get a lot of practice in already when you do in the work in your real life. But it is the time you set aside outside the work to learn and test and practice that you can really push your skills and knowledge forward.
Dabble in other fields and cross-pollinate ideas. To grow exponentially in what you do, it pays to look outside. Explore a new hobby, a new field, an unrelated skill. You will harvest new ideas, new ways of seeing that will take you to the next level. The insights that separate you from everyone else and gives you a true edge, a unique thing to contribute.
Space for strategising
To succeed, we have to be deliberate. We have to take a portfolio of actions that will take us from point A to point B. If we are obsessed and focused on results, hitting the mark, then we have to be effective as opposed to just being efficient, or worse, busy.
Strategy helps us manage our limited resources to create outsized opportunities. It gives us leverage. It is important to use empty space to reflect on what we are doing and reinforce where we are going. In this space we find ways around the challenges that have stumped us. We plan and set our plans in motion. We create opportunity.
Life is busy and we have demands on our time and resources continually. It is good to be in the arena, fighting and working. But we must retreat into the calmness of empty space from time to time, using this time to rest, investigate, learn and plan. In this way, we make sure that our days are focused, that we are not just busy, not just productive but deliberate in a way that makes sure that we move forward and grow.
This is how we win.