What Nonprofits Need To Do More in 2015: Embrace Stillness | Beth's Blog

What Nonprofits Need To Do More in 2015: Embrace Stillness

Digital Wellness, Leadership, Reflection

The new year is always a popular time for all of us to take stock and see the big picture.   And, every year when the calendar flips over, we embrace reflection and setting goals.   However, we live in a connected world where we have gotten so go at being in touch, informed, and connected, that we don’t know how to be alone and step away more regularly.

People who work in the social good sector world are busy people, flitting from task to the next text or email.     Too often, we can caught up on this endless slideshow that is our digital and mobile lifestyle.   We focus more capturing the sunset on our mobile phone to share on Facebook, than simply enjoying it.  It can drain your passion.  That isn’t a good thing if you work in the social good sector.

Over the past fews years, with the rise of online social networks, there has been much written about how to cope (or not) with too many people, too many status updates, too much email, and being too busy.  Over the years, I’ve been writing and teaching workshops on these topics – how to manage your attention online, how to avoid being content fried, and balancing connectivity with solitude.  I believe these are important and practical “networked leadership skills.”

Pico Iyer, a travel writer, has given us new spin on the problem and the need for “stillness,”   identified by CNN as one of the 10 ideas of the year.  Stillness is different from mindfulness, a coping technique that teaches people to live in the moment and meditate to reduce stress. The “stillness” that Iyer talks about is to bring insight and perspective by stepping back from one’s daily existence.

He elaborates in his TedTalk on the topic as well as in a related book, The Art of Stillness:

“We’re standing about two inches away from a huge screen, and it’s noisy and it’s crowded and it’s changing with every second, and that screen is our lives. And it’s only by stepping back, and then further back, and holding still, that we can begin to see what the canvas means and to catch the larger picture.  So, in an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. And in an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.”

He suggests that it isn’t anything more elaborate than taking a few minutes out of your busy day to sit still without distractions and let your mind wander.  By doing so, it can help you restore balance and remind you about what really matters.

He ideas are not a technophobic rant against the Internet and digital technologies, but a reminder that we can bring back balance to our professional (and personal) lives.      I know that sitting at one’s desk at a nonprofit and being still might be perceived as “wasting time.”  Nonetheless, I feel that taking five minutes a day to practice stillness, followed by a brief reflection time can not only improve our individual productivity, but help our social good organizations reach goals.

How are you balancing connectedness with quiet?   Do practice stillness?  How can you make this part of your nonprofit’s culture or way of working?


5 Responses

  1. Richard Turner says:

    Spot on Beth. Every day I go to cafe where I sit and with a coffee just think about the day ahead. It’s now my daily fix. I find without that moment to myself the day just hits me. But with that little pre thought I focus so much on what really matters.

  2. Ron Ford says:

    I enjoyed reading your article. I just started to create my website and your input is very helpful. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Jessi Honard says:

    I’ve been seeing Pico Iyer’s new book (and the accompanying TedTalk) all over the place lately! I love his message, and it’s so, so true. I find that the hardest thing is remembering to take those moments, especially when you’re up to your eyeballs in tasks.

    This year I’ve been trying to incorporate pomodoro timing as well as periodic meditations into my work day, and while it’s only a few weeks into January I can already tell that it’s helping. Just the conscious effort of stepping back for even five minutes makes a huge difference in preventing burnout. On a similar note, I read a study that said most Americans took either no vacation time or fewer days than allowed by their workplace in 2014. This is a shame! Time off exists for a reason, and we need it to refocus and revitalize.

    Great post, and thanks for the reminder! I think that a lot of people are finally reaching a point where they are realizing that they are not, in fact, energizer bunnies!

  4. […] back to the posts about being still. First, I read Beth Kanter’s post on What Nonprofits Need to Do More in 2015: Embrace Stillness which simply suggested taking five minutes out of your day to sit at your desk and let your mind […]

  5. […] stay connected and on top of things. But do we take and encourage time for stillness? Here are some important reminders from Beth Kanter about making sure we allow time for reflection- a particularly vital component of long distance […]