I published an article for ISACA in November, 2013, about finding greater balance with technology. It was the precursor to a project I have been working on called Tech Cleanse. When I say working, I mean stewing, brewing, talking, brainstorming, researching, writing….all the things that happen behind the scenes before a business launches and before there is a product or service to buy! In the process, I have learned alot about my own behaviors as they relate to striving toward a so-called state of balance, and why / how / when I reach for external sources in an attempt to fill some sort of perceived void.
I do not believe in balance unless you are referring to the physical state of teetering on a rope at the circus or on one elbow during yoga class. There are lots of phrases trending now that support the perception that a state of balance is achievable for a completely centered and peaceful existence; when every area of our life is in order and there are no crying children, no bills to pay, no friends who are struggling, no illness, plenty of time to achieve all that we are told by media sources to become, and through it all we are looking and feeling awesome!
How stressful does that sound!? I have some information – proven! – that might alleviate some pressure so you can go on and enjoy your totally imbalanced day: it doesn’t exist for us humans on earth. There will always be more things to be done, messes to clean up, conflicts to manage, and discomforts to address. You might not get enough sleep some nights and that will cause you to reach for something to feel better and it will really make you feel guilty, even shameful! Then you will take it out on your kids or the person you love the most and you might fight about something irrational that could even cause you to start obsessing that your relationship is doomed. At the end of the day you may look at all the ways that you have failed in finding balance in your life and you will think about all of those people who seem to have their &$% together. Then you find yourself on Facebook – comparing, romanticizing, dreaming of the day when you are in a perfect state of equilibrium.
The good news first: you are not alone and there is an easy solution to living a more content and peaceful existence (psst…it might even be blissful!). The bad news is that over time the behavior that was just described has carved pathways in your brain that supports the rat race. When you are distracting yourself with external things to feel better you are moving even farther away from any sense of equilibrium. Moreover, the stress is accumulating and your body is living in a perpetual state of fight/flight/freeze, perhaps having lost the natural ability to regulate your nervous system. This leads to a host of physical and mental illnesses, and chronic stress is arguably the fastest growing cause of death.
I have lived this and I can still go back to that state in an instant. Most of us are losing the ability to be present, and are in a perpetual state of distraction which we call multitasking so as to feel more productive and less of a glutton for social media. I believe the solution can be found in the following steps:
1. Create new habits and daily practices that supports self-compassion.
2. Stop making lists.
3. Challenge yourself to a daily unplug, when you will step away from (and turn off!) your devices (laptop, tablet, phone). Watch what happens and track your responses over time.
4. Find new meaning and purpose in your daily existence if you think you need it. This is where my proposed Tech Cleanse Retreat comes in and if you are ready to see the world in a whole new way, consider taking an even bigger step and unplugging from American life for 11 days. Come to Africa with me!