Friday, August 23, 2013

Looking for Balance: The Need for a More Sustainable Way of Life

This morning, I read this really great article by Arianna Huffington, Burnout: The Disease of Our Civilization. In it, she articulates so much of what is wrong, really, really wrong, with our current way of life.

Her focus is on the corporate workplace, and she points out that too much time spent frantically engaged in money-making activity is neither good for the company nor its employees. There are numerous examples of employers providing mechanisms for some element of life balance - and many of these companies are very successful, national or even global brands.

She also talks about how our lifestyle is impacting us on a personal level. One stat that jumped out at me was the fact that the average smartphone user checks their device every six and a half minutes. That's 150 times a day.

I don't have a smartphone, but I'm as guilty of this as the next person. I always want to know what's in my email, on Facebook, on Twitter. I'm becoming increasingly aware of the compulsive nature of this behavior, while at the same time, puzzled. What, exactly, do I think I'm going to miss?

Personal Choices Lead To Cultural Change

I can't change the way the world operates all by myself. However, I can change what I'm doing. I need to be more mindful about the way I consume information, and how tethered I am to the internet.

One thing that really started me on this journey toward a more sustainable lifestyle was a bit in a Martha Stewart magazine that said we spend 95% of our lives indoors. That seems so incredibly, egregiously wrong.  At the same time, observing how much time I (and the people around me) have their attention focused on a small screen, is troubling.

In Syria, right now, little children are dying from chemical weapons attacks. The situation in Egypt is chaotic, and frankly, the situation in the United States is not exactly wonderful. But we don't pay attention to that when we have wonderful diverting Twitter streams full of who in the world will play the next Batman?

One of the fundamental ideas that's pivotal in creating a more sustainable way of life is learning to consider attention as a consumable resource: you only have so much, and you need to be selective where you spend it. I squander my attention, and that leads to bad choices and limits my ability to help others.

But this can change, and it will change. I'm not advocating for totally unplugging from the world - I can't support my family if I don't work - but there needs to be healthier limits than the ones I'm currently using. It's time to explore what those are.

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