The pilots call it “down time.” Musicians may refer to it as “between sets.” It could be the time between jobs or between tasks, but whatever you call it we’re referring to those unfilled moments in which you find yourself with nothing to do. How you fill those open spaces can make all the difference in what comes next. Here are six ways to use those open times for inner work.
1. Reflection: What did you accomplish?
I particularly like the week between Christmas and New Year. For me it is a time to examine the year just completed, to acknowledge what I accomplished and plan the year ahead. I begin by looking for what really worked. That acknowledgement is very important. If you take time to list all you have done you may be both surprised and pleased. Maybe you want to call it a “Gratitude List” rather than an “Acknowledgment List.” Write down your successes, you’ll find you have a lot to be grateful for.
2. Contemplation: What do you want to change?
Of course, some things didn’t work and we get to give gratitude for them too because they contained our lessons. We found out that we didn’t know how to do it, or people didn’t want it, or the timing was off, or, or, or… Looking at our less-than-successful ventures gives us insights into what not to do next time or how to do it differently if we choose to try it again. What lessons did you learn?
3. Decisions: What do you want more of?
Some things were absolute joys for us so of course we want more. What made them happen? What parts of it made it so invigorating? A little examination of what happened, what its components were and why it happened helps us take a giant step toward attracting more of the same. What do you want more of in your life?
4. Values: What qualities do you want to attract?
Whether you are contemplating next year or next quarter or next week or next day, what qualities do you want to be there for you? I’m a bit too much of a loner so I’ve decided to embrace the quality of willingness to be more social. Within 24 hours I had a most rewarding conversation with someone I knew only slightly. We deepened our understanding of each other and it warmed my heart. The next day another new friend felt comfortable in asking me to drive her somewhere. Another friendship expanded all because of my willingness to be more social. What qualities do you want to have evident in your life?
5. Choice: What you focus on you get
It’s very simple. What you look for you will see. What you focus on you will attract. If you look for negativity you will see a lot of it. If you look for positive reinforcement you will see how much there is of that around you. Notice the words you use. Are they “I can’t,” or “I can” phrases? Notice what you expect to happen – good things or bad. Once you are aware of what you are focusing on you have a choice to consciously start focusing on and expecting only the good.
6. Take charge: You are the director of your life
I play weekly cards with a woman that when I first started I found to be very, very judgmental about how I played the game that was new to me. It showed in the tone of her voice, in her judgmental sighs (you’ve heard those) and her attitude. Now I know that I always have a choice: I can hang out with people whose positive energy I like and not be with people whose energy is negative. I privately mentioned to another one of the card players that if that judgmental-ness kept up I might not play cards. It was just a concerned comment and the expression of an awareness on my part that I had a choice. I have a feeling she told the woman for the latter gradually began to change. And a few evenings later the woman said, “This is so much fun!” Because she had changed her attitude, that had changed our responses to her.
You are the director of your life. What you say, what you think, what you look for, what you do, all influence those around you and their reactions to you. If you do nothing else in those quiet, reflective spaces of time, look at what you want to change about yourself. What do you need to let go of? What do you need to do more of? How can YOU change? Then do it.
Use your open time to contemplate, to rest in the unfilled spaces and simply see what shows up. Look within and see how balanced you are. What does your body need? What does your soul need? Use these pauses to reflect and make new choices based on what you find within. Open spaces are for inner work. Use them wisely.