“Il dolce far niente”

The Sweetness of Doing Nothing.

In one of the scenes in the movie, Eat, Pray, Love, the conversation turned to “Il dolce far niente”; the sweetness of doing nothing.

In European countries, this sweetness of doing nothing is part of their lifestyle. It is a way of life, their way of life. They understand that we have one life to live and refuse to slave away at things that are of non-importance or insignificant to the enjoyment of their daily living. They know when it’s time to slow down and enjoy life. They don’t plan a vacation to relax, their vacation is to explore, learn, and enjoy the offerings of the places they are visiting. They don’t make plans to do “nothing.” They live it each and every day.

I’ve been told that the Italians would sell their furniture for money so they can go on vacation in the summer. In Holland, you are awarded “vacation money,” because everyone deserves to go on vacation.

Here in the USA, we plan everything, even doing nothing. Vacation planning is more stressful than it’s worth at times. Trying to cram too many activities and experiences into a day take away the pleasure of really appreciating the moment. You hear people say that when they return from vacation, they need another vacation to rest. What was the purpose of the vacation?

Did you really enjoy the vacation or did you just get enough pictures to show the world what you did, missing the most important part about why you went on vacation in the first place?

There is no flow and ease of doing stuff anymore. If you plan a day at the beach, even that becomes a production of planning, organizing, scouting out locations, time of day, who is coming; the ongoing controlling of the moment. There is no flow and ease in anything.

I grew up with some of that European influence, maybe because it is what we call island living, the lifestyle of leisure and pleasure. I’ve always been asked by tourists visiting Aruba or even during my years in Turks & Caicos Islands, what do people do here all day, and this comes after they have been enjoying themselves and having too much fun during their vacation.

And the answer is; the same thing you do all day. We go to work, take the kids to school, attend PTO meetings and fundraisers; we go grocery shopping and Saturday morning soccer practice, afternoon dance classes, etc.

The only difference is that we go about our day at a slower less hassle pace. We make simple no-planned trips to the beach, meet friends regularly for lunch, we gather as a group to have coffee or whatever beverage is appropriate for the time of day and we appreciate the sun, ocean, sand, friendship, family, and our time. We take in the day more relaxed. Planning a beach trip is as easy as saying: “hey, we are all going to the beach after school”, and everyone shows up with or without food, and or drinks.

In the past, stores were closed from noon to two pm, and everyone went home for lunch and a nap. Even if you weren’t close to your home you took those two hours to leisure and lunch with your coworkers. There were no shops, banks, or grocery stores open, so you couldn’t busy yourself with shopping or doing last-minute chores. You had to stop. You had no choice but to enjoy “Il dolce far niente”, without guilt or regret.

We beat ourselves up for not doing more, but we never give it a second thought to beat ourselves up for not taking care of ourselves first. What is more meaningful than having a quiet moment to yourself, where you can relax, be in the moment, and let the sun shine on your face.

This new world of being and staying busy could be one of the main reasons we live in constant stress and fear. Our minds are constantly racing against what? . . . time, opportunities, moments, to-do lists?

Busy work makes you run around without really accomplishing much. Trying to multitask is a waste of time. Research has shown that our brains can only focus on one task at a time. It takes at least fifteen to twenty minutes each time you shift between tasks to refocus your attention to the new task, which means each time you break your concentration and switch tasks, you are actually wasting precious time and the outcome of the work is not the best you can produce for the time you spend. Coaches are getting paid big bucks to teach time-management skills to fortune 500 company employees to increase productivity and focus on this skill that many ignore.

This is my go-to question to myself when circumstance shows up in my life: Tomorrow, next week, next month, a few years from now, will I remember that I got my to-do list done on time, or will I remember sitting with friends laughing long past lunchtime and having an amazingly memorable day. Whatever doesn’t have a place in my memory bank to be a part of the future I would one day like to reminisce about, I give it no time of day or importance in my life.

They say choose your battles, and this is the most simple, easy battle to choose. When we stop beating ourselves up for not having accomplished a goal, deadline, or menial chore, we will finally have the freedom to be in the moment and appreciate the simple things in life and open up for more abundance, gratitude, and love in our hearts.

So the next time you start to stress about your deadline, bills, and chores, think about the situation and ask yourself; will this make a big difference in my life in the next hour or day or year, and then choose to do nothing, just smile, and find a moment to focus on something you would like to remember for the long haul. Appreciate yourself, your environment, and the simple indulgences of life.

We believe we have no time, but the real question is; with the time we do have, do we want to spend it on stress-induced circumstances or laughing at life’s surprises?

How important is “Il dolce de far niente?”

Very much so. Try it!