Seven days in a row, no work, just the family and some friends at a beach house in Florida.
Got to Day 5 or 6 before reading a single word of any of the reading material that I brought.
Other than plugging in the laptop with a wireless internet connection on the afternoon of our arrival, for the purpose of finding a map of the town we were in, and then checking a personal email account in the middle of the week for about 2 minutes, the computer was never turned on.
What did we do for seven days?
Created. Sand castles, a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle, pottery glazing. And biked. And swam. And ate and drank.
That's it. No information absorption of any kind, for an entire week. And that was the best week I can recall in a long, long time. Then I thought back to other "best times I've had in a long time," and not a single one involved access to news, internet, or contact with the world that existed outside of my immediate surroundings and the people I was with. Why is that?
I believe it's because there is a happiness continuum for most humans:
- we are happiest when we are creatively doing [whether that creativity involves the moves on the court, the drawing on the page, the notes being played, the construction of a deck, or the problem-solving repair of a toilet], when we are physically engaged "in the moment";
- failing that, the next level of happiness is realized when we are communicating about something we care about,
- followed by learning in a group setting about things we care about,
- followed by learning in an individual setting [and I suppose I very loosely consider media consumption and gaming as "learning"],
- followed by daydreaming,
- followed by doing things in a group setting that we don't enjoy,
- followed by doing things alone that we don't enjoy,
- followed by doing nothing while thinking negative thoughts.
Many people are unhappy in their jobs, or even their lives, and I wonder if the solution is as simple as spending more time on activities that are higher up on that happiness continuum. Of course, that would mean spending less time on the activities that fall lower in the continuum (the term "hierarchy" is being consciously avoided, as hierarchies tend to represent things that build on one other, such that the lower items in the hierarchy are required in order to achieve the higher items; that is clearly not the case here, since people are able to engage at any point in the continuum without having participated in activities at other points).
But that opportunity cost isn't really much of a cost at all - in fact, it's yet another benefit to spending more time in the fun part of life. Who has time for sadness, boredom, loneliness and depression, when more and more of their time is spent busily creating, doing, learning, and interacting with others? Once a certain point is passed, once the pie has its biggest slice taken up by happiness and its smallest slice taken up by suckiness, the crappy parts are more easily endured due to the fact that our minds can deal with temporary and short-lived adversity far more effectively when it knows that it is just a drop in the ocean when compared to the happiness of engagement that is the norm.
Now, it's almost time for yet another engaging, happiness-inducing activity - as soon as I suffer through a short-term, life-force-draining activity that ranks REALLY low on my personal happiness continuum.