Stop and Stare

When I was in middle school, I had a teacher who was, shall we say, eccentric. He taught choir and a few other non-band music classes, and about halfway through my seventh grade year he was recruited to co-teach my gifted class. (More on “gifted” another time…)

The class was already being taught by the art teacher, so it didn’t seem a strange addition – until he started giving us assignments. 

For one of our first classes with him, he had us sit and listen to the entire production of “Phantom of the Opera.” Having traveled to New York a lot of as kid, I was aware of Broadway in general, but had never actually seen a show. (It wouldn’t be until later that year when my dad took me to see the original production of “Cats” at the Winter Garden Theatre.) I loved it, but try to convince a 13 year-old boy its merits.

And there were other quirky things like that.

But the assignment that sticks with the most was something much simpler. One afternoon, Mr. Bishop walked our little class of about 15 kids out to the middle of the field and had us sit in a circle facing outward. We would spend the next 30 minutes just looking around and making mental notes of all the things we had never noticed before.

I can’t say that I noticed anything life-changing that period – mostly things like the color of the grass being different in one spot of the field or the fact that the tree in one corner was kind of bent in the middle – for some reason the experience has stuck with me all these years later.


How often do we really take the time to just stop and look around? If you’re anything like me and the wheels inside your head are turning at about 1,000 RPMs, I’m guessing not too often. And I think part of that has to do with guilt, like taking a beat to breath and relax is somehow wrong. I used to be so much better about this when I was younger (maybe too good…), but now I actually have to schedule in time to rest.

…the 10% of employees with the highest productivity surprisingly didn’t put in longer hours than anyone else. In fact, they didn’t even work full eight-hour days. What they did do was take regular breaks. Specifically, they took 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work.

– Lisa Evans for Fast Company, 09/15/14

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a lot of stopping!


Okay, not stare exactly, but more like look around. Rest can actually be really productive, and does not necessarily mean you’re vegging in front of the TV or computer with your mind in an all but comatose state. What it should be is a time to observe and think – not about everything on your to-do list or what’s for dinner, but more about what’s going on around you. What have you never noticed before? What do you want to do better? What are your goals/hopes/dreams?

Taking a break doesn’t mean from EVERYTHING. But you should be able to look around once in a while – really look. In the famous words of Ferris Bueller…

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

So, don’t miss it!

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