In Spanish you say “I’m going to eat the world”, instead of “I’m going to conquer the world”. Very revealing about what the two cultures value. When you feel that the world is eating or conquering you, it is because you are being self-demanding. You feel that you need to perform on a stage – any stage – your work, personal life, health, personal development, rather than living your life fully moment to moment. We all feel like this from time to time.
I was the biggest fan of the word “productive” when I was at university. In our Warwick University newspaper “The Boar” I wrote about a Warwick species, the “Achievus Maximus” who worked hard and played hard.
That was me. That was pretty much everyone who signed up to lots of societies, aware that it would “look good on their CV”, whilst they studied long hours in the library and partied hard at night. At that age there was no guide to help us reflect on why we did things or on how to give space for our true potential to flourish.
Therefore, many people leave university and carry this mindset on into their working lives. The meaning of life? Being productive and achieving. Deserving the rare moments of pure “switching off”.
Yet, what if striving to be productive is cutting you off from your potential and enjoying life more all of the time? This is something I am realising over the years, sometimes painfully, but never in my heart of hearts do I doubt it to be true.
We do not do our most inspired work or make the best decisions when the focus is on being productive. We confine ourselves to the status quo and a mindset of sacrifice that not only limits our enjoyment of work and life but also our creativity and human potential.
Any growth in that space is forced, an effort. This affects our motivation, health and sense of being alive. We feel trapped and believe that if we are more productive, more successful, we will somehow earn our freedom.
Freedom is feeling OK with questioning yourself and how you live. It is taking good care of yourself, believing that you deserve to love, laugh and be at your best. It is forgiving yourself and others, and being yourself around others. It is seeing actions, objects, events and people as an end in themselves, not as a means to an end. Above all, it is realising how reality works: You create it internally moment to moment.
If your motivation is Industrial Revolution productivity and achievement at any cost, that is what you will create. Try loosening the self-demanding rope. Take a refreshing dip into a new lake and watch, with curiosity, what happens. And, dear eaters and conquerors, let’s take ourselves a little less seriously.