Our lives have gotten so complicated these days, with the constant demands of social media and email. Is it any wonder that we are feeling stressed by the onslaught? The fact is, we were not designed to handle this level of input. Professor Theodore Roszak, famously quoted: “A weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime in seventeenth-century England.” Even though we have access to more education today than a few hundred years ago, the quote is chilling. How can we not be distracted by all the demands in our lives? I often wonder how much geniuses like Mozart would have accomplished if they were constantly distracted by texting. How many plays would Shakespeare have written if he had spent a few hours every night catching up on Facebook?
Henry David Thoreau, even in the 1840’s, felt that he needed to simplify and get away from the hustle of Concord so that he could think and write. It did help that Thoreau did not have to do a lot of chores, since he regularly walked into town for dinner and conversation with friends (he was not in fact a hermit) and that his mother did his laundry! (One way to simplify definitely is to delegate chores to others if possible.) But he realized how important it is to slow down, spend more time in nature, and have time to reflect on one’s life: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
How many of us are so scheduled that we are doing a lot but not really living? The fact is that our in boxes will still be full someday when we die. Do you really want people to remember you for how much you jammed into a day? All of us want meaning in our lives and yet, in the day-to-day hustle, it’s easy to forget.
In order to clear the path to your ideal life, one important step is to build in time for silence and reflection, even if it’s just a few minutes per day. Make time to be outside, to play with your kids, to do something creative. These are the moments you will remember, not plowing through your to do list. Every day, ask yourself, “What can I let go of? What doesn’t really matter to me?” Doing this clears a path to what does matter.