About a month ago, I decided I needed to find some clarity in my life. Having moved back to California a little over a month before, my life was on autopilot, with my days basically consisting of work and Netflix binges. Not the stuff fulfilling lives are made off.
In order to find the clarity I was searching for, I made the decision to cut out most of the distractions that normally filled my days. Those included social media, Netflix (TV and movies in general), the internet, and music. I even committed to only drinking black coffee for a little extra challenge – not that I need any more of a challenge. While I wasn’t perfect at cutting everything out, it ended up being the most austere two weeks I had experienced since being grounded as a child. Fortunately, I gained a lot more from the experience than I ever did from any punishment, no matter how much I deserved it at the time.
From Emptiness to Fulfillment to Action
It wasn’t until I didn’t have a screen to distract me that I realized how much I was dependent on TV and social media for my entertainment. I’d even go so far as to say that I depended on those things to give me a sense of fulfillment in my daily life. Still, that realization did little to make my new found austerity any easier, at least not at first. I was at a complete loss for how to spend all of the free time I had just reacquired.
For the first few days, I resigned myself to just sitting in silence with my thoughts while I wasn’t at work or around my family. Not exactly the most thrilling activity. However, that solitude turned out to be exactly what I needed. As the days went by, I started to feel a sense of peace that I had never really experienced before. My thoughts slowed down. My impulsive desires stopped controlling my every action. The feeling of emptiness that I had been trying to fill with digital distractions started to fade away. I started to realize that I could be just as happy sitting in silence as I could hanging out with friends or watching Parks and Rec.
Along with a greater sense of peace and fulfillment, I also started to feel a genuine desire to take action in my life. Glancing up at my bookshelf one night, I saw the dusty, unread copy of “The Lord of the Rings” that I always planned on reading but never started. Almost without thinking, I grabbed the book off the shelf and dived in (I’m currently about 250 pages in and loving it). The next day, feeling a desire to make something with my hands, I decided to pick up the age-old craft of wood carving. I went out that evening and bought a pocket knife and some blocks of wood and got to carving. Since then I’ve carved three pieces and thoroughly enjoyed the process.
A Life of Simplicity
The feeling of peace that came from living with fewer distractions was pretty eye opening. However, cutting out all of the distractions in my life was pretty extreme, and definitely not sustainable. What’s interesting to me is, in the time since those two weeks ended, how quickly I’ve fallen back into the trap of letting all of those distractions dictate my life. This is especially true for social media. I’m now more aware of how often I check my phone for updates, likes, and friend requests, usually to the detriment of my own sense of inner peace.
My goal now is to start cultivating a life of intention and simplicity, though in a much more organic way than my forced austerity. I suppose it’s all about finding the right balance. Not deleting my social media, but limiting how much time I spend on it. Indulging in Netflix, but not letting it become part of my daily routine. And most importantly, giving myself some time every day to disconnect from the constant stream of distractions and connect with my own genuine desires.