Conscious Inaction (#151)
Today is Black Friday, an American tradition that has now spread overseas. People fight lines and even each other in their attempt to not miss out on the latest hot deals.
Although a principle that I regularly espouse in Friday Forward is the need to be action-oriented in life (especially since the basis of most regret is inaction), there are times when conscious inaction is the best path, particularly when based upon a careful reflection of our core values.
Take, for example, outdoor clothing retailer REI. For the fourth year in a row, they will be closed on Black Friday. Instead of encouraging shopping, they’re promoting their #OptOutside campaign, an initiative designed to inspire people to reconnect—with themselves and others – outdoors.
In a statement about the decision, REI’s CEO Jerry Stritzke said, “You don’t win in the long-term by pushing what I call rampant consumerism.” Stritzke even credited the decision to close stores on Black Friday with helping REI survive the “retail apocalypse.”
For REI, the decision to not get caught up in the fervor of Black Friday is very intentional and conscious. I’d argue that those who are surrendering by being open from dawn till late evening today may not actually want to do so. They may not be able to afford to play the deep discount game and company leadership might not be ready to go against the grain. Unfortunately, their employees and shareholders are the ones who get the short end of that decision stick.
In life, many of the best decisions are the ones we consciously didn’t make.
The employee we didn’t hire.
The company we didn’t buy.
The job we didn’t take.
The emotional e-mail we didn’t send.
The thing we didn’t say.
There is an important difference between complacency and conscious inaction.
Sure, if our inaction is based on fear or insecurity, we need to push through. However, if we are being pulled to do something that is not aligned with our values or that won’t help us achieve our desired outcome, then the conscious decision not to act is often the best one. Especially if we are being drawn to something that is urgent but not important.
My friend, Rob Dube, wrote a book on this subject and leads “do nothing” mindfulness retreats specifically designed for business leaders and entrepreneurs. By learning how to do less, Dube and his team help them find more presence and awareness, which ultimately helps make them better people and leaders. He describes it as “The most rewarding leadership challenge you will ever take.”
This mentality is clearly shared by REI’s Stritzke. In a recent statement he said, “Day in, day out, we’re looking down instead of up, looking at our phones instead of the world around us. We’re asking people this year to reevaluate that picture of themselves. To see technology as the starting point to a journey outside, not the destination. And to go explore the world with someone they love – on Black Friday and every day.”
As I have in past years, I am going to do exactly that, spending today with friends, family and getting outdoors. I hope you’ll join me.
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