Our world today contrives to make us fill up every second of our lives; so much so that we don’t take the time to consider how we are using the most important finite resource we have. We just keep doing, and all of a sudden another year has passed.
When I think back to pre-Internet, cell phone days, I can recall with great fondness afternoons on weekends spent reading, spontaneously deciding to do something with my family, or the friend that dropped by. It seems a luxurious way of being now.
You know the business colleagues who will wear like a badge of accomplishment that they haven’t taken a vacation in five years or are unwilling to leave the work phone, laptop, and/or iPad at home if they do go on vacation. At what point did we become so certain that the world couldn’t live without us for a couple of weeks? At what point did we allow those who purchase a portion of our time and expertise to believe that included 24/7 access to our lives?
Setting boundaries is a healthy and appropriate way for well-lived lives to be designed. It is absolutely part of a healthy human’s life to take restorative time, to engage in pursuits that fill the soul, to worship, to exercise and maintain the body and mind that allow us to make contributions to our family and community.
I conducted an experiment a few years ago that taught me a lot about staying aware of how I design my life on a regular basis. My family and I made a significant move as I was changing jobs. The time leading up to the actual move had been overwhelming dealing with a house renovation, packing, working to leave my then current job well, handling the move and home purchase on the other end, and dealing with multiple family health issues. I had two months between jobs to get settled and have a break before taking on a significant role with my new employer. I decided not to tell colleagues where we were going, nor friends. Other than my immediate family, we withheld new information including email addresses and cell numbers. We went off the grid for two months. After arriving, we spent our time getting to know our new city, unpacking, dealing with the many personal business items a move requires and trying to get a bit of rest. The time flew by – and frankly, one more month would have actually provided the restorative time we needed, but it was interesting what we observed.
It made people really uncomfortable. It also became interesting how many thought they should be the exception to our choice. People can perceive that they have a right to tell you how you use your time. Not being in contact for a period of time has almost become unacceptable in our culture when a matter of a very few short years ago a long distance call was expensive and a letter might be the way you stayed in touch. We love the many people who grace our lives and have been blessed every step of the way with people who enrich our lives and bring us much joy.
However, this experience became a real cautionary tale about making sure that constant activity, driving of content from multiple sources, – emails, RSS feeds, blogs, twitter, facebook – engagements, and every request to participate in something doesn’t replace clarity about your life’s mission and determining whether or not the energy, time, and talents that have been given are used to their best advantage. One thing is certain, the final second will tick for all of us. Going off the grid once in a while to reassess how we are aligning ourselves in our day-to-day lives can bring critical insights.
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