Self Development

What You Can Learn From Being Perfectly Still.

To grow in a world that is continuously moving, we must first learn to stop.

The true art of standing still requires more than just patience. It requires self-discipline and courage to not move in a world that is constantly in motion.

Seems like a quote from a movie, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s possible, I am not entirely sure; however, the concept of the quote bears truth in being still.

Let’s look at a real example from a real person who runs a real company.

Patience is a virtue, and I’m learning patience. It’s a tough lesson. — Elon Musk

A tough lesson indeed…

However, being a patient person does not necessarily mean you’re ready to develop a multi-million dollar business or end world hunger. Instead, it can help develop other smaller skill areas that are essential in everyday life.

These traits are inherent in our ability to communicate effectively, there is a lot we can learn from simply listening to the other person. And by simply listening, I am not implying that it is a good idea to just stand and nod every few seconds.

I am talking about the kind of listening where you are grounded. Centred and focused on purely what is coming out of the speaker's mouth. Nothing to distract you and nothing from pulling your attention away. All there is between you and the speaker is blank space to fill with context.

What I’ve learnt from my experience is that there are three main lessons that we can take away from being completely still.

Number One: Patience

Patience is primarily the key component that can be taken away from standing still. I mean at the end of the day we could all do with a little extra patience.

When you are standing in line at Starbucks waiting to order, but the gentleman in front cannot decide. Patience.

When the train hasn’t arrived and the intercom states it will be a further 20 minutes. Patience.

Most people believe that when they need to be, they can be as patient as required. However, a by Assistant Professor Ayşe Eliüşük Bülbül made the statement that personality traits, appear to be an important predictor of patience. Essentially, making the observation that no matter how much patience you claim to have, your personality will inherently determine your handling of any given scenario.

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Certain people over the years have said to me that by simply standing still for long periods of time they have been able to build patience over time. I look at the people and know that it is through external factors that prevent them from moving forward that have ultimately built this skill.

Recently, I was on a film set. Although the pandemic still looms in the air, the ability to go back to a live set was thrilling none the less.

The cast and crew were all flustered, trying to do so many tasks at once. The rush of being on a live set sent everyone into a flurry of excitement.

The main problem that arose was a lack of management from the production crew — particularly those responsible for time management and shot allocations, etc.

There were laughs and comments thrown about the set, but hardly ever an action or cut. As an Actor, you do not get to decide when to start and when to leave. If you do, you won’t last too long in the industry.

So when a scene takes 4 hours to shoot when it should only take 1 as it is so minuscule in the picture of things. You start to feel a little uncertain, but as mentioned, there is nothing to be done other than to sit and wait it out.

This builds patience.

Being placed in a situation that you have no control over, where all you can do is wait, is ideal to be still and take in your surroundings. Moments like these often present observations and scenarios that you didn’t know existed.

Perhaps it’s the formation of leaves hanging from a tree branch. Or how the curvature of the surface of the road is slightly favouring the right side.

For me, being still led me to listen closely to the phonetic nuances between English and Japanese.

二番 Ni-ban (Number Two): Language

Have you ever watched a film for a second time and noticed a line of dialogue or action you hadn’t the first time around?

Being still can help you hone in on this trait and become a better observer of language. While being still and giving your attention and focus wholeheartedly on a task at hand, you let yourself go of distractions that would in effect change the way you understand or complete an action.

We can also pick up and understand language quicker if we stop letting distractions take over the learning process.

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One of the most prominent elements of language learning is body language. How we interact with our hands, gestures and overall embodiment in conversations either in person or through technology.

Obviously, each person has their own unique way of using body language to communicate, but there are certain mannerisms and gestures that are universal across a variety of languages. These components of language are not taught in schools or in virtual classrooms. They are fundamental in becoming fluent in a language, and any student that wishes to acquire fluency needs to know them.

Take a student of mine, for example.

He came to the school with a poor level of English, almost beginner and had asked that we help him achieve an intermediate score for visa purposes. This was all well and good until he said that he only had three months to do so. Usually, this task would require at least six, with such a low level.

I said to him that in order to become fluent, he would need to remove himself from getting into conversations in his mother tongue. A Brazillian in Sydney, Australia, yeah right…

Three months later, we had a chat. His use of gestures and body language throughout our conversation far exceeded my expectations. Not only that, but his use of the English language had also far improved his intended goal.

I asked him what he was doing in his spare time outside of the school, thinking he was taking alternative classes, however, to my surprise, he simply said;

I stopped and listened

He continued to say that he made himself aware of situations where he could take advantage, watch, and listen to people. Either at the beach about to go for a surf or having coffee at a cafe. He would take notes every so often, but when he wasn’t writing, he simply watched and listened, allowing himself to be free of distraction.

Although the student has since gone back to Brazil, his level of English was not only achieved through being still but by a teacher who had achieved a high level of time management skills (tilts own hat).

Number Three: Time Management

If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re early, you’re on time.

Two conditionals that bear truth to any job, task, or goal.

I’ve never forgotten this life lesson, and I always arrived 15 minutes early to an interview or activity that I need to complete.

Why? Because it helps me prepare mentally for the task ahead. Because being early to a meeting or even to a dinner date allows you to prepare for the action ahead. It gives you the added time for any scenario or emergency that might occur, like needing to go to the bathroom.

Waiting for someone for an hour at a restaurant only increases your level of frustration when their tardiness and bursting bladder causes them to be gone another 20 minutes.

Time Management is, without a doubt, a universal trait that we can all become better attuned to. And this, of course, can be learnt through patience.

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While the third element to be learnt seems like an obvious one, it is probably the most important. Yes, it will help you build patience, and yes, it will help create study routines to efficiently learn a language. However, it will make you a better person overall.

Let me give you two examples.

A man wakes up, has a shower, shaves and heads to work. His boss asks him to step into his office for a meeting at 10 am. Before the meeting, the man goes to the bathroom, washes his face, prepares himself for the worst and sits in front of the office with 5 mins to spare.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Let’s talk about the second guy.

Another man wakes up, has a shower, shaves and heads to work. His boss asks him to step into his office for a meeting at 10 am. Instead of giving himself time to prepare, he tries to complete as much work as possible before the meeting. He is then called via the phone asking for his whereabouts. He runs to the office where he is greeted by one hell of an angry boss. The door slams shut.

You get the main idea. The first man was prepared and gave himself time to prepare before the meeting, regardless of what it was about.

So how does being still have anything to do with time management?

If you have the ability to stand still for a moment and take a few short breathes, you’ll gain a better understanding of the world you’re in. Ultimately, you’ll be better able to prepare yourself ahead of time instead of at the buzzer.

Whenever you get to a point in your day where you have the opportunity to be still, take it. Look around you and absorb the world you are in. That spare moment is your time to prepare for the next, and you may even remember suddenly something that has to be done. Good thing you have that spare moment up your sleeve.

As my first employer used to tell me on a daily basis until it stuck.

Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

The Six P Rule, if it sticks, should help you prepare for your next moment of being still.

In Summary.

Being still has benefits. While they may not help your wallet grow, or improve your flexibility, these subtle changes will ultimately help you become a better person long term.

By being still we can learn three principles that are inherent in our function in society.

  • Patience Building
  • Language Acquisition
  • Time Management

You may experience only one of these or perhaps all three. Whatever the case may be, remember that is through being still that these skills will flourish. That by merely taking a moment to let go of all distractions and centre yourself that you’ll be able to engross more in the world you live.

To be still and watch the world closely is going to make you a more observant person. Take time away from your busy schedule, sit on a park bench, puts your hands by your sides, and breathe, you will be amazed at what you are missing.

Teacher • Writer • Actor

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