When COVID first hit the U.S. and we were forced to go into lock down, I remember how surreal it felt. For the first time in my lifetime, the world stopped. I had to hunker down and grapple with the gift of stillness (which often felt uncomfortable).
Like others, I picked up new practices with this extra time. With nowhere to go and with the hustle and bustle of life removed, I slowed down and began taking long walks. I began writing. I connected with friends and family with more frequency. Excuses about how busy we were became nonexistent and we made space for meaningful connection, albeit virtual.
A year and a half later I’m still reflecting and trying to define the silver lining from that time in life.
What sticks with me most from those first weeks of uncertainty was how it forced us to slow down. Most demands on my time, outside of work, evaporated. This absence provided an opportunity to engage life on a deeper level – with intent and purpose. I found myself with extra time and choices to make about how I should use it.
BUILDING A NEW NORMAL, BRICK BY BRICK
Contribution is something I’ve been thinking deeply about for the past 18 months. I’ve had time to form practices that have allowed me to hone my contribution. I made intentional choices to prioritize creative and regenerative activities that have benefited my quality of life.
The stillness from last year helped me tap into a resevoir of creativity I had forgotten existed. That discovery led to the creation of this blog and a deeper exploration of my own creative limits. In that time, I’ve learned that creativity, as messy a process as it is, demands discipline to reap its rewards. I’ve become a better version of myself by engaging deeper with a creative practice.
And yet, once things began opening up earlier this year, demands on my time quickly began piling up, like a bad habit finding its groove. This tension has served as a reminder that if I don’t prioritize what I value most, the world won’t hesitate to impose its own agenda.
As such, anything that doesn’t align to my purpose or my ability to contribute must be evaluated seriously. If it fails to serve a clear purpose, in line with my values, I must eliminate it.
After reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, I’ve realized how much a prisoner I am to technology; how much time I spend mindlessly and passively consuming content. Technology has become a security blanket against boredom and a constant source of anxiety from FOMO. I’ve accepted the narrative that all the conveniences gained from technology are worth it without ever really asking “what does it cost me?”
So, for the month of September, I’m examining the role I want technology to play in my life. I’m taking a page out of Cal’s book and doing a digital detox. By setting very clear guidelines on how I’ll use technology, I’m hoping to see what I gain from the additional stillness.
- Will I find more time to create?
- Will I experience more meaningful connections with friends and family?
- Will the constant, low-hum of anxiety from always being on dissipate?
- Will the extra time with my thoughts lead to some deeper realizations on how I can contribute?
I’m including a link to a document I put together that explains guidelines as well as my own commitments (in case you’re interested to see how I structured it). I don’t claim to be an expert, but if you’re interested in taking a similar journey, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions.
I plan to share insights and struggles throughout the month. I’m not sure what will come of it but I greatly appreciate you riding along for the journey, in one form or another.