I propose that periods of aimless idle behavior or flânerie, are necessary for a life of purpose.
aimless idle behavior.
We cannot go full steam forever. We cannot endlessly produce with joy without time to slow and notice and absorb from our surroundings. We cannot consistently serve others without periods of being nourished ourselves.
I am a fan of regular, luscious bouts of purposeful aimless idle behavior.
Words make me happy and I first came across the word flânerie several years ago and tucked it into the little purple notebook I keep in my bag at all times. Very briefly, it was used to describe certain men in 19th century France, in particular, who resisted “the social controls of modern industry,” ignored the rush hour, and meandered through the streets noticing, reflecting, observing.
Some of us, in our own ways, are trying to push back against the rush hour, are we not?
I need some weekends to read new books or lay on my bed and watch Netflix, guilt free. To go for long walks and hang out with family without an agenda or to-do list. To sit and chat and discuss ideas deeply and at leisure.
When I travel I want as few constraints as possible. I want to wander, people watch, stop where it suits my fancy. Take an unexpected turn. Wake up curious and allow the day to simply unfold.
I want space in my life to take my time, to opt out of rushing. To meander and putter and occasionally jump in the car and drive somewhere for a mini adventure. To play it by ear.
The Benefits of Flânerie
When we go off script for a bit, loosen our grip on our schedules and tightly managed lives, we experience many benefits. Here are just a few:
1. We recharge.
Downtime and self care are necessary. When we take mini breaks or give ourselves permission to relax and just be for a while, we get refueled for the journey. We cannot pour out if we don’t also pour in.
We recharge when we make space for our souls to rest.
2. We tune in to what our minds, bodies, and spirits have been speaking to us.
We are often so busy running that we fail to hear the messages that our bodies, minds and spirits are speaking to us. Sometimes screaming to us. In our efforts to keep it all together, be super productive, or serve everyone else we disregard our true needs and feelings. They always find a way to the surface eventually. We need to learn to listen if we are to live with purpose, health and joy.
3. A little idle wandering promotes creativity and problem solving.
How many times have you stepped back from the problem at hand to jump into the shower or get out for a walk and were hit with a new idea, a creative approach, the very answer you were seeking?
Spending time in a book or watching a movie has often helped me see the world through a different lens. There have been many times where a turn of a phrase or the learning curve of a fictional character provided an answer I was seeking or profoundly inspired and encouraged me.
4. We are reminded that our value does not lie solely in our productivity.
We matter just because. Our ability to perfectly perform—to keep all the balls up in the air at all times—cannot determine our absolute worth. We have a right to rest. We have a right to be and take up space in the world even when we are not busy, doing, rushing, satisfying the needs of another.
5. Practicing the art of flânerie might actually boost our productivity when we are working.
Many companies are realizing that longer work hours inhibit productivity. Giving people a shorter work day so they can live healthier lives, lives that include naps and leisure, often greatly increases productivity and quality of work. It can help us engage with increased focus in deep and meaningful work.
So what do you think? Can you see how a little more aimless idle behavior or “flânerie” might just help you live a purposeful life?
*Note – This article was originally published on A Life in Progress.