Socrates is famous for saying that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” But how many of us take time to really examine our lives? We might pause for a moment before making new year’s resolutions, but in the day-to-day, most of us end up hurrying from one place to another without making a lot of room forsilence.
You may think: even if I did have time for silence, I wouldn’t want to spend it constantly thinking about myself. Self-reflection may seem like an unhealthy egoistic obsession, a kind of navel-gazing that makes us worse people, not better.
The thing is, that’s not true self-reflection: that’s rumination.
Do you ever have moments where you realize you’ve been thinking backwards? And all that backward thought is, well, holding you back?
The other day I wasn’t feeling particularly well: I had recently gotten over the flu but was still struggling with bouts of tiredness and nausea. After cancelling plans with an understanding friend, I spent the afternoon resting
Later, I felt well enough to clean the kitchen but found myself scrubbing the counter in a barrage of negativity. As I scoured a particularly sticky spot, I began berating myself for just resting instead of doing something. “See, I feel okay now. I should have just gone out – I would have been fine. Resting was a waste of time.”
But then, all of a sudden, it dawned on me: what if I didn’t feel better in spite of resting? What if I felt better because of resting?
Can you imagine a business that decides to implement a new set of policies without considering whether or how any of the current policies are working? And can you imagine the results if that business had no concrete way to measure whether or how any of the current policies are working? Obviously, it would be a disaster.
But what about our personal lives? Do we ever stop to consider how and why we are doing things the we do? From our daily habits, to family living, to hobbies and skills, we can learn a lot from taking time to reflect back on what is and isn’t working, and why.
Good resolutions start with good reviews. Have you paused to take a good look at 2018?
Do you enjoy going to museums, being immersed in a work of art? Or a symphony, where you are plunged into the music? Are you content to just be in nature, surrounded by beauty? Or, do you start to feel bored after a roomful of paintings? A bit anxious by the third movement of the piece? Ready to have phone signal only an hour into the hike?
I know I struggle to pay attention to these offerings of beauty in the world: and I’ve noticed that the more I’ve been on email, phone, social media or tech, the harder it is for me to be present to the world around me.
Art, nature, beauty – these things require a contemplative stance: our interior posture has to shift from activity to receptivity, from doing to being. We have to choose reflection over analysis, sitting-with rather than taking-on.
The “shoulds” is a condition that I’ve noticed in my own life, and in the lives of those who struggle with perfectionism – although it can affect others, too!
Someone with the “shoulds”:
“should” try harder. Try harder at being a better person. Try harder at not being so lazy. Try harder at doing whatever thing is the thing to be doing – growing houseplants, becoming a minimalist, buying eco-friendly clothing.
“should” work more. Lean in. Hustle. Have a side-gig.
“should” seize the day more. You Only Live Once, so they should climb the mountain, see the sunrise, eat crickets.
“Shoulds” are burdensome. They lead to constant guilt about all the things we aren’t doing, and to none of the joy about the things we are.
Someone with the “shoulds” basically just feels bad about existing most of the time. Continue Reading
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.