Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The (Un)Disciplined Life...

Simplicity is a discipline. Just like any other discipline it requires practice -- habituation in order for the lifestyle to take hold and become a natural part of who you are. Simple. Unless, like me you happen to be a naturally undisciplined person -- and that will sound totally foreign to many people who think they know me pretty well. The people I work with, for instance. People who are used to seeing me focus on a problem for hours -- to be among the first to arrive, eat lunch at my desk while continuing to work, and often work late into the night. But outside of the work environment..... well that's another story entirely.

I have a huge variety of interests -- some of you already know about that. I have this photography habit that can have me looking in the river grass for the stray raccoon looking for the stray snail or clam, while balanced on a rotting piece of wood at low tide, for instance. I have this music interest that causes me to search the unpopular racks at out of the way music shops for that off-beat CD, or sends me on 300 mile cross-state trips to perform with The Ashley Gang for a 30 minute set and no pay -- or at least not enough to cover the cost of gas. I have this technology thing going that keeps me in front of my iMac for hours working with digital images, answering emails, working on my photo site, checking out friends on MySpace or checking in with my nephew and nieces on Facebook. I have this reading thing that lands my nose in a James Madison or Thomas Jefferson biography, or a Richard Russo novel late into the night. I believe that learning is an eternal, ever present necessity. I like to hike -- need to hike -- and spend time in the wonder of natural, undeveloped Florida. I'm more of a loner than a people person, but family time, grandkid time, is essential. Then there's this writing thing -- and here I am. Doing one thing and always knowing that I could be doing something else -- always worried that I'm missing an opportunity. Mental hyperactivity. So what's the difference? Why can I manage the distractions at work, stay focused and keep on a strait line from start to finish there, but not here? This is my dilemma -- my simple living challenge. I've thought about it and come up with some basic ideas...
  • At work I'm an "organizational captive" -- at home I'm not "captive"
  • At work I have a limited (though large) focus -- at home the depth of field is unlimited
  • At work I have a set of tools -- email, calendars and schedules, a team with a shared focus, incentives, a strong ethical obligation because of the nature of the work, a distraction-limiting environment (office)
So, my question is what of this set of circumstances can I translate from the in-office to the out-of-office environment, or in fact, should I? I think the answer is no -- certainly not all of it, but maybe some of it. Maybe one thing (at a time). With care not to confuse simplification with not doing things -- I have just about determined that the broad resolution to "simplify" is too complicated. Just pick one thing. I'm not willing to sacrifice my creativity to a simplicity pledge. But I am willing to cast out the unnecessary for the essential. To identify the time wasters and life wasters -- by employing a few of those work life tools to identify the waste (TV time for instance), remove it and keep it out.

New pledge:
  • one hour per day max with intellectually stimulating content - no American idol.
  • read twenty pages of something non-work related every day.
  • Tai Ch'i class on Saturday mornings (when not on the road making music)
Hey -- it's a (re)start! -- simple.


Karen Gladys Henry said...

I can entirely relate to what you wrote here, as a person of many interests as well. Many men have not tapped into their right brain, much less connected the two. You seem to have done this, and the corresponding creativity is a testament to that. I'm working on the discipline not to waste time as well. Good for you!!

I am a lover of children's literature said...

I too, like Karen can relate to this post. Sadly, what really relates to me is the fact that I'm so unorganized! But I'm working on it! It just isn't as easy as I thought or hoped it would be.

The Vital Muse said...

..and I'm just trying to get organized enough to put together another post... I did get away for a Friday the Thirteenth photo safari down A1A along Florid's east coast -- will be posting some about that here soon --

Thanks, Don and Karen, for hangin' out -- Hope your weeks are less crowded than mine...
-- Paul