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314: Dive Deep into Life Instead of Paddling on the Surface

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“The missing element of oxygen, when brought home, gives us time in which we can record the tiny, visceral, magnificent details of living. The shower after a sweaty workout, a belly laugh with a friend, the warmth of fine whiskey, rain on the roof, or a tight and lasting hug . . . Busy can make you miss it all. Busy keeps you paddling along the surface of the water instead of diving down to see the parrot fish and the fan coral.” —Juliet Funt, author of A Minute to Think: Reclaim creativity, conquer busyness and do your best work

A thinking life is a happy life. But if you don’t give yourself regular time to think well, living well is near impossible.

Inspired by my own aha moments most recently as work shifted temporarily to being at home during the pandemic restrictions for in-person work environments, but also throughout my life when I would notice my productivity rise and fall based on the rigidity of my schedule, I witnessed which approach blatantly not only produced the best productivity, but the most joy as well. They were not mutually exclusive.

In fact, each time I have had the opportunity to travel to France, I witness the daily routines of the French, the long lunches, the deliciously untempered dinners that stretch into nearly early morning, and I remind myself to value quality engagement over the quantity of doing more and fitting more into a day’s work or even play schedule.

A new book, A Minute to Think provides encouraging evidence predominantly from inside the corporate world of the benefit of shifting away from more and instead investing in less. Today I would like to share with you seven ideas to ponder when it comes to how to live a life, that includes work, but is not driven by work, but rather living a fulfilling life, that brings you deeper contentment, joy and satisfaction.

1. Add regular white space to your days

“Without space we can’t sustain ourselves.”

The analogy of how fire remains alight demonstrates the point of the importance for white space or small, regular pauses, throughout our days. Once we have ignited the fire, struck the match and set ablaze the fuel, Funt reminds, “it’s the space between the combustibles that fire can’t live without. The space is what makes flames ignite and stay burning.” In other words, we need to add more oxygen to our days in order to live and experience life more deeply.

When we add white space, we add the potentiality of serendipitous moments, connection – deep, honest, unrushed – with our fellow human beings and we add time to think, clearly, enabling ourselves to be grounded.

2. The feeling of life balance comes from the vibrancy of your everyday life

Funt makes the argument that often work becomes our source for the dopamine hit we instinctively crave, and since our homes are perceived as places of routine, we look outside of our private and personal lives for a rush, even if it results in burn out.

The shift that must happen is understanding what we actually need to feel vibrancy. Funt encourages readers throughout A Minute to Think to add regular white space to your days – that includes both work and home life. White space opens up an opportunity where nothing is planned, spontaneity, rest, connect can occur without expectation.

3. Shift your idea of what work looks and feels like

Funt presents the idea of creating ‘thoughtful’ workdays. Workdays that enable you to flow with what your body and mind needs as you create a protected environment that welcomes the space to think.

“In this protected environment there is room to think. You contemplate tasks before acting. You mull over problems without prying eyes. You take breaks as your body requests them. The feeling of flow is incredible. A mere two hours later, you stand up to stretch and realize you’ve completed what would have taken days during the [typical work] week. No wonder you burned so brightly. You had plenty of oxygen.”

When you add regular white space to your days, you are adding time to think. You are not telling yourself what to think about, but rather simply providing space to let your mind wander and see how you actually feel, what creative solution arises, how to care for yourself as you give yourself the space to listen to your inner voice.

4. Unfilled time is not the enemy

“When people are freed from the antiquated notion that unfilled time is the enemy, they discover that taking a minute to think is a formidable source of professional power.”

The permission to take regular (every day) pauses, both long and short must first come from you. You must shift your nurtured value system that always being busy is the best way to live. In actuality, non-stop busy only keeps…

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