“We must give up many things to which we are addicted, considering them to be good. Otherwise, courage will vanish, which should continually test itself. Greatness of soul will be lost, which can’t stand out unless it disdains as petty what the mob regards as most desirable.” — Seneca, Moral Letters
I spend a great deal of time thinking about the way I spend the majority of my time. I carry a set of unwritten rules around with me wherever I go. Like the one where I don’t install any games on my phone. I know me. If I had games on my phone, I would play them to distract myself from more important, but less pleasurable tasks, like writing this. Another rule I have, and this one is new, is that if any app on my phone sends me an alert more than three times a day, it gets notifications disabled. This is relatively easy to do on an Android phone. I’m not going to allow my phone to control my attention span.
I know myself. I am a procrastinator. If I don’t block out time for what truly matters, I won’t do the things that truly matter. Modern life offers us thousands of activities and substances that we can become addicted to. Whether you spend several hours a day playing Farmville, or looking to score your next hit of whatever it is that gets you high the way you like, maybe it’s time to reconsider the amount of time and energy you’re giving away. It’s impossible to grow when you aren’t blocking out time to think about what meaningful growth looks like to you.
For me, meaningful growth involves contemplating my reality and creating stories and narratives about the past, present and imagined future. To do that, I need to limit the things that take away from writing time. Like my phone buzzing to demand my attention.
If something is taking you away from what you love most, consider limiting its access to you, or your access to it. If that thing, substance or person is truly keeping you from doing what you really love, you may even need to banish the whatever it is completely.
All of this assumes you know what you really want from life, and that you’re willing to fight to have it. If neither of those things is true I hope you do find a calling and become willing to give up all the petty addictions in order to accomplish it. The more I contemplate my life, the more I realize that many things I’ve thought of in the past as harmless indulgences probably aren’t. I’m more and more willing and able to tune out and push out the things and people who don’t add any real value.