La dolce far niente – the sweet doing nothing

Dolce far niente

A tourist visited a coconut grove on a small tropical island. It was early afternoon and the owner of the grove was sitting under a palm tree, just watching the blue ocean out there.

The tourist seeing all the coconuts hanging in the palm trees, asked the man “Why are you not picking your coconuts?”. The owner answered, “I have picked enough for the day”. “Why don’t you pick some more?”, asked the tourist. “Why should I?”, answered the man?

The tourist explained, “If you pick more, then you will earn more money, and then you could buy some more land, and you could earn even more money”.

What should I do with all that money”, asked the man? “That’s easy”, said the tourist. “Then you can retire, and start enjoying your life!

What do you think I’m doing now?”, replied the man.


Even though the man with the coconut grove was not from Italy, he embodied the Italian life philosophy of “la dolce far niente”, or “the sweet doing nothing”, so well explained in the barber shop scene of the movie Eat pray and love.

In life we need to find the balance between work and rest, between activity and stillness, between yin and yang. If we have a stressful job, it’s even more important to schedule time to just being. Perhaps a leisurely stroll in the park, half an hour of meditation, or sitting in a café just watching the people passing by, without thinking of the job and all the other musts in life and not obsessively checking the smart phone for any social media updates. Or as suggested in the movie, “… go home for lunch and make love with your wife”. After all we are human beings not human doings.

And if you think that taking time for doing nothing, will make you less productive – think again. Finding a good balance in life will make you more productive – not less!

Illustration: Pixabay.com – lukasbieri

svensk_flagga   Detta blogginlägg på svenska

Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

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