It’s such a hippie word, but a good one: to live consciously. I always return from California with a renewed commitment to this idea, because many of the people I know there make daily choices that prioritize the many things that can make them happier, not just busier. Krista explores similar issues while quoting an article on pervasive “busy-ness”:
Recognize that a frenetic life is a life half lived. You should aim for “Flow,” a concept from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology and education at the University of Chicago and author of the book “Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning.” Flow is a unique state of mind where productivity and creativity are at their highest. Csikszentmihalyi says that Flow generates the grand ideas, phenomenal work, and intense, rewarding experiences that people identify with happiness.
Flow occurs when you are fully present and engaged in what you are doing; the concept of time melts away in a commitment to the goal-oriented activity. This feeling requires being occupied and engaged for uninterrupted chunks of your day without ever thinking that you’re rushed for time. People who are busy do not get this feeling.
-Penelope Trunk, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
I am pretty good at getting into “flow” when I need or want to; but at a certain level of commitments to others, to projects half-chosen, half-accepted, all ability to get into this intensely productive, calm, focused state dissipates. For two or three weeks this January, I couldn’t get there. Everything felt jumpy, nothing got done. Slowly, I’m re-emerging; the things that needed to be done seem more manageable though they have not fundamentally changed, my sense of mastery and choice has returned.
Still, reflecting on life while in California and on the flight home and in the days since, I’ve thought quite a bit about what I need in my life (it’s not earth-shattering):
- Work that feels meaningful, where I interact with other people, with a high degree of independence and self-management.
- Opportunities to be creative outside of work. Right now this is generally writing, taking pictures, and baking.
- Good healthy food, mostly made at home.
- Exercise and time outdoors; sunlight.
- An attractive place to live where I feel at home, kept more-or-less clean.
- Strong relationships with others and a sense of community.
- A sense of exploration; exposure to new ideas; interesting reading material; new places and things to see.
- Enough sleep.
What don’t I need?
- Partying, late nights just for the sake of it, an inconstant schedule.
- A huge circle of friends. A few good ones, with whom I spend meaningful time, will suffice.
- Thrills. Newness and exploration does not equal thrill-seeking.
- More hats. To this end, I said no to teaching Saturday Academy.
I looked at my week and thought about the important things. Can I make myself menus every Sunday and cook good, fresh meals three or four times per week, and eat mostly leftovers the rest of the week? By planning in this way, can I save on impromptu grocery trips or ordering in or eating out? Can I invite people over to cook with me and watch a movie on Sunday nights, thus increasing my sense of community while ensuring that I eat well? Which days will I exercise? Which days will I work, and for how long (not indefinitely)? Which days will I clean? Which days will I leave some time for spontaneity, for meeting up with someone on a weekday evening, for just chilling? It sounds regimented, but I believe that I have time for all the things that matter, and by looking at what I do and comparing it to what I could do, I hope to move closer to having full days, rather than busy ones.