In This Edition:
1. April Showers
2. What Fills Your Days and Why?
3. Looking Beyond
4. What Are You Busy About?
As a University of Connecticut alumnus I never dreamed that decades after graduating, my school would become a powerhouse of NCAA basketball, but it’s now a matter of fact. When I attended UConn, we played in the Yankee Conference against schools like the University of Maine where a moose in snow shoes coached the team (just kidding).
What Fills Your Days and Why?
The Middleton Media study conducted at Ball State University reveals that the typical American adult is connected to the media, including Internet and print media, for a staggering 15 hours a day! [Note includes overlapping such as surfing the net while having a television on in the same room.] With all the news and information that each of us absorbs, is it becoming harder simply to function as a human being? Could be.
My sister Nancy is a behavioral psychologist who works with clients in therapy to determine, among other things, how they spend their days. “It’s a significant clue to whatever type of dysfunctioning they may be experiencing,” she reports. Tell me how you spend your time, and I’ll tell you what your troubles are.
A wheel stuck in the mud, spinning fast, certainly represents rapid motion. Yet the car is not moving. Are your days filled with activity but not the experiences and accomplishments you’d like to enjoy?
When you examine the broad canvas of your life, interesting surprises often surface. What you say is important to you isn’t on your schedule. What you say you dislike is where you expend your energies.
Busy or not, everyone has 168 hours a week. I checked. One way or another, everyone fills them. Consider the cumulative amount of years you spend doing various activities. Any activity consuming 30 minutes of your day, consumes two solid years of your life. During a work life of 48 years (from ages 22 and 70), an activity that you engage in for an average of 30 minutes each day consumes one complete year of your life: (½ hr in 24 hours) = (½ yr in 24 years) = (1 yr in 48 years).
The realization that what you do for only 30 minutes on a daily basis costs you one solid year in the course of your adult life is simple yet profound. Obviously, there are some things you would not or could not give up, and it is silly to apply this arithmetic to activities such as personal hygiene. Nevertheless, you have a new perspective for viewing what you do that can aid you in eliminating activities that do not support you. It also underscores the importance of taking control — looking for new ways of accomplishment and questioning your routines.
A friend of mine, who I will call Elliott, feels anxious when he doesn’t keep up with the latest news. While driving, he frequently tunes to the all-news radio station. He doesn’t read the paper daily, but he always scans the front page. All day long he checks his smart phone for messages and news. After work, he vigorously surfs the net and catches the evening news or the late night report.
Elliott is caught in a trap. He is experiencing anxiety associated with the fallacy of keeping posted. It is of no consequence to Elliott to hear daily reports on a Midwest mayor being investigated for corruption, or a movie with a new sordid twist on an old theme, or the four alarm fire last night in the next town.
Still, as the years pass, Elliott consumes thousands of hours in his life ingesting such information and being buffeted by the other mega-realities, while not accomplishing what he wants, and continually feeling as if he has no breathing space.
If, like Elliott, time-pressure has been a lingering issue for you, look beyond routine, ritual, and victimization to ownership and responsibility for what is occurring in your life:
What Are You Busy About?
Can you imagine Mahatma Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. getting up in the morning and lamenting about all the things they wanted to accomplish that day or week? Indeed, can you envision anyone of major accomplishment attempting to proceed in life following someone else’s priorities?
Can you picture anyone of lasting accomplishment engaging in personally hazardous sleep patterns, talking faster, or buying speed-listening tapes? Flooding your senses is the prescription for trouble, not accomplishment, and certainly not breathing space.
If you can look beyond your own routines, your rituals, and your feelings of victimization, your quest becomes one of taking several days and deciding what’s important to you. This is intensely personal and can be genuinely rewarding.
The happiest people I know identify and keep identifying what matters to them and then allocate their efforts accordingly. If employed by others and assigned what to do, they are fortunate to be able to make their assignments among their priorities.
These happy souls are able to break free from collective, cultural images of success and be guided by their own choices. Great leaders in society fit this mold. All else eventually leads to some form of internal conflict.