Trading Up From Lesser Things

Anyone who knows me well is not surprised when I disappear from social media for long periods of time.  I am an introvert and there are times I simply can’t handle the input of what the world puts out.  At the beginning of this year, I made some intentional changes.  With those intentional changes came some unintentional ones.

More than twenty years ago, I read Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity for the first time.  I reread it every few years as a reminder.  And at least twice a year, I reevaluate what’s on my schedule.  For a variety of reasons, it has gotten pared down significantly over the years.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

– Gandalf – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

If you believe your life has a purpose (and I believe that all of ours do), then doing the most with what you have becomes a priority.  We all have the same number of hours in a day or week.

What am I doing with those hours?  What distractions eat away my time and energy?

I’ve asked myself those questions many times.  At the end of last year, I made a list of things I wanted to do in the coming year.  All those things require time and energy.  More to the point, if I really wanted to accomplish those things, then I would have to consciously choose to NOT spend my time on other things.  It might mean disappointing other people because I would not be living within their expectations for me.

And so my experiment began.  As I began to focus on the things I wanted to accomplish, other things naturally fell away.

I carefully choose how to spend my social time.  As an introvert, this is a natural survival instinct.  However, since the beginning of this year, I have guarded my time and energy so carefully that I find that I now leave my house approximately one day per week.  There was a time when my work took me away from my home office more frequently.  Circumstance and choice now allow more freedom in my schedule.

I rarely spend time on social media.  However, I do get notifications for posts of a few family members, close friends, and groups that are highly important to me.

I am intentional about the time I spend on sources of news or entertainment.  Some days that is more than others, but it is always with the knowledge that time spent there can not be spent on other things.

For decades now, this quote has come to mind when I am presented with a choice:

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Source: seafoam media

As we grow up, we learn that life is about choices – including what will get our time, money, and attention.

I’ve known this for a while, but here’s what I have learned to an even greater degree:  When I limit the number of sources and frequency of things asking for my attention, I physically feel better, I think more clearly, and I have a deeper sense of peace.

It’s not just the nonsense of life and the crazymakers of the world that drain my energy.  Sometimes, even good things drain me.  Sometimes, I have to abandon good in favor of better or excellent.  Sometimes, fabulous things (a.k.a. blessings) drop into our laps.  But generally, it results from an environment created by choices.

Trading up from lesser things does not happen by accident.  It comes from intentionally choosing to let go of the lesser and embrace the thing of higher value.  It comes from asking: Is its value worth what it costs you?

By giving myself permission to spend my time and energy on the things I am most passionate about at the moment (and permission to release the things that are of lesser value for me right now), I am more productive and happier with the quality of my work.  That is no small thing for a perfectionist.

I encourage you to find the balance in your life that works for you.  Many people will have an opinion about what your priorities should be.  But if you take some time to get quiet and you are honest with yourself about what you value, it will become clear which things in your life have little or no value for the journey ahead of you.  Why carry the extra weight just because everyone else is?  Or because someone else thinks that you should?

Travel light.  Trade up from lesser things.

Until next time.

~~EJ

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