I have done a couple of different thought experiments recently. I highly recommend you try them out.
The first was to write down the things that bring me joy. I use the word joy here instead of happiness, because I see happiness as coming from something – having a cause. I am happy because I ate an ice cream, I am happy because I got a bonus, I am happy because I made a new PR.
But joy, to me, is more like peace of mind. It doesn’t come directly from something else happening, but may arise more readily in certain situations or from certain practices. For me, joy comes from time with friends and family, spending time in nature, especially on the water, from meditation, from exercise, from coaching and helping others and from cultivating my body and mind.
I then compared my list of what brings me joy to what I actual do in a given day. I am looking at this as a way to focus my one truly limited resource – my time. Am I spending my “free” time doing the things that bring me joy?
The second is very close to the first, but I started a list of “cultivation buckets”. I wanted to look at the time I spend during the day in relation to my ideal of cultivation. The way I see it, I could spend my time cultivating:
- My mind
- My body
- My relationships (with other people, with my communities, with nature, with my job, with my spirituality, etc.)
I further broke that down into things I do that cultivate each:
- Read (non-fiction, good fiction)
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Walks in nature
- Time with family
- Listen to/make music
- Sled training
- Foam rolling
- New skill building (muscle-ups, handstands, unicycling, juggling, etc.)
- Time with family
- Time with friends
- Being truly present with other
- Really listening – with the intent to hear, not to formulate what I am going to say next
- Putting away cell phone
- Walks with others (preferably in nature)
This is, of course, a partial list. And, as you can see, some things are in different buckets. But again, my point was to look at the things that I know I can do to cultivate the life I want, and then to compare it to what I am actually doing. I think this can be an insightful framework to look at how we spend our time.
This is by no means to say that every minute has to be spent in cultivation. But it has made me really look at how much more time I could spend on things that bring me joy and are acts of cultivation, instead of just wasting time…