We’ve been tricked into thinking that currency is comprised of banknotes and small chunks of metal but today, currency is attention…distraction…disruption. We talk about disruption as a positive side effect of innovation but reflections on experiences I’ve garnered in my 20s challenge that paradigm.
Our worlds are cluttered. Our minds are cluttered. Our inboxes are cluttered. There is more input than the human mind can realistically keep up with.
Since self-care is so in vogue it seems logical to start here. It takes, on average 10 minutes of processing time for every 18-120 minutes the human mind is engaged. There’s no beating the biology, no pill you can take to lessen this time, nothing you can drink to outsmart it. Delay it, sure, but not indefinitely.
When we delay post-processing time long enough we get burned out. I’m not talking about colloquial burnout but medically diagnosed burnout as defined by our friends over at Merriam-Webster.
: to cause to fail, wear out, or become exhausted especially from overwork or overuse
We laugh it off. Burnout’s tiny cries have been demoted to a household joke, but ignoring the profound disruption of psycho-biological cycles and the subsequent effects it has on our lives always seem to catch us by surprise.
Our culture of ‘disruption’ has left us distracted and frantically trying to keep up. The lifestyle of ‘being in constant motion’ has become one of great celebration. Success has been redefined as who can best ignore their biological cries for idleness. We are so terrified to be possessed by the demon of laziness that we run circles around purpose and long to find some fulfillment.
Pause for a moment.
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets…Read More“
Why are we like this?
Human beings are afraid to be forgotten. On an individual basis. As a community. As a species. We’ve impressed that fear onto everything we do.
How many pieces of clothing still have the tags on it because you’re afraid of what will happen if it’s worn?
How often do you visit aging loved ones out of a fear of connection?
How often are elderly family pets left to die alone at the vets?
It’s all very in line on both a micro and macro scale: There’s no attention to the latter half of life cycles because we so deeply fear the ends of things that we would rather stay in a frantic state of newness and doing.
I think that’s why the minimalists have gained a such an incredible platform with chorus of quiet voices: they’re the only ones talking about the ends of people, places and things.
It’s easy to ignore but isn’t cultivating a tradition around death or endings, whether it be about pants, or Fido quintessentially human?
What the eff does this have to do with creativity?
We’re not playing the long game and so many creative people are burning out in their 20s – mid 30s. Millennials, dubbed the Burnout Generation (of which there are varying opinions) harkens to a need to repurpose some of that spent attention on things other than starting new projects, businesses, relationships – and perhaps use it to post-process what’s happened.
Anecdote fun time: I was medically diagnosed with burnout in September, 2019. My body stopped working. It felt like merging onto an onramp, stomping on the gas of a car that previously would go 0-60 in 2 seconds and getting up to 25 mph max after about a minute. I lost confidence in my ability to perform, create, do, take in new information, and was reduced to existing in a state of depression / post-processing for 3+ months. Getting near a computer gave me a panic attack.
Sure, you can laugh at me and the absurdity of this situation. I did for years, but it catches up to you. Working crazy hours with non-restful sleep has very real physical consequences on your memory, internal organs, hormones, and psyche.
Humbling at best, but here’s the only reliable way I’ve found to help the mind and body heal.
Age quod agis.
Whether it’s cooking dinner, cleaning your home, working on a brochure, sitting in stillness – do what you’re doing. Put the phone down. Put the music away. Fully immerse yourself in the task in front of you from start to finish then move on. Pay attention to, and appreciate the intricacies of the motions of your hands when washing a plate. Pay attention to, and appreciate the subtleties in color play in the pantone books you’re using. Listen to, and appreciate the sounds in your apartment. Feel the softness of, and appreciate your pet.
Life slows down when you do what you are doing and becomes more beautiful in ways you cannot even begin to imagine.
Perhaps purpose has been right in front of us this entire time.