Reclaiming my time

A couple of years ago, I attended a life-defining weekend-long personal transformation workshop. During one of the sessions, the facilitator asked a simple — but powerful — question:

What do you want?

In what felt like a nanosecond, five responses burst through the floodgates of my innermost desires, almost as if they’d just been waiting to be asked:

  1. I want to love.
  2. I want to be loved.
  3. I want to call my own shots.
  4. I want to travel the world.
  5. I want to leave something to remember.

Obviously, these are common ambitions. I’m sure you’re either in pursuit of (or preserving) more than a couple from this list yourself. We all want love (Rihanna even wrote a song about it). Who doesn’t crave a sense of autonomy in their professional life? (Especially if your creative streak likes to drift outside the lines like mine.) Of course it’s cool to be able to connect with people from around the world, but there’s nothing like actually trotting around the world. And isn’t the purpose of our humanity to leave this place better than we found it?

But if I’ve been reminded of anything since I released those dreams into the universe, it’s this: Saying what you want is one thing; achieving it is another.

Here’s another reminder: When you want to receive something extraordinary from the universe, you have to give something extraordinary in return. And generating the extraordinary is easier said than done.

The extraordinary requires you to create more than you consume. It commands laserlike focus on developing a craft and a commitment to minimizing and eliminating any threats to that development.

Social media was one of those threats. When I could of been writing original content, I was retweeting. When I could have been scouting new clients, I was envy-scrolling Instagram. When I could have been expressing gratitude, I was sinking deeper into The Comparison Pit.

For months, I tried minimizing my consumption. But to no avail. Because these platforms are engineered to be used relentlessly, not in moderation.

So I had to go into full-on elimination mode. You could say I’ve reclaimed my time.

And in the six weeks since, I’ve created more value for my business than in the previous six months. I’ve introduced a new version of my newsletter. Read an average of two books a week. Reconnected with a few friends and family. Explored new neighborhoods in New York City. And got the ball rolling on some new stuff that I can’t wait to share with you.

This isn’t a call to action to quit social media. (I’ll let my friend-in-my-head Cal Newport handle that.) It is a notice that extraordinary desires call for extraordinary commitment. And whatever’s in your way — be it social media, an ex, and old boss or an energy-sucking friend — doesn’t deserve to keep you from what you want any longer.