These past few weeks, I’ve been catching up on the TV show Battlestar Galactica (the 2004 version). If you haven’t seen the show and want to, be advised that I’m going to spoil the ending for you. It’s a necessary evil – I’ve got a rather important point to make. I found the series a bit hard to watch at times; it’s about war and the very survival of the human race. To be honest, I found the series so dark that although I enjoyed the characters and a lot of the poignant questions which the series’ creators managed to ask and sometimes even answer, I kept watching mainly to see the ending. I wanted to see and feel the relief of a resolution.
Ok, here comes the spoiler: at the end of the show, the human race settles on a new planet. But in an attempt to break a cycle of repeatedly destroying themselves (or being destroyed), they decide to leave all their technology behind and, aside from a few basic tools, start over with a clean slate. They give up all their creature comforts to live in nature, farming and hunting and spending their days focusing on basic survival. This really got me thinking. What if we gave up all of our technology? What if we went back to basics, stopped living in a microwave society, stopped being available 24/7, stopped caring so much about one-upping each other, gave up all the politics and just let it all go?
Obviously, as I’m sitting here typing this up on my computer, I’m not seriously advocating going back to a Neanderthal lifestyle. I’m making a point, and it’s this: When I thought about the show’s characters choosing to give it all up, I could see their point of view. It felt like relief. And as I explored why I felt relief in that thought, I realized that what was so appealing was the idea of hitting a reset button and setting completely new priorities.
We live in a very noisy world. We anesthetize ourselves with meetings, schedules so full we have to plan in pee breaks, constant availability, fast food, electronic toys with so many features they actually make our lives more complicated, lights blinking and data streaming at us every second of every day. There’s more and more information that we just have to know. There’s more to watch, more to read, more to listen to, more to do, more and more to keep track of. It’s like we’re spinning plates on poles – hundreds of them, and we’ve convinced ourselves that if we let any of the plates drop, bad, horrible things are going to happen. This is where our real level of stress comes from – this belief that we just have to keep going, have to keep on top of this huge mountain of tasks, and we can never, EVER stop.
But why? What’s it all for? What is our ultimate goal in running round like chickens with ADD, not with their heads cut off, but high on copious amounts of speed? It’s like we’re running for the sake of running. We have to keep up. With something. We’re not sure with what or to what end, but we can’t fall behind. We just can’t. Keep running. Keep spinning the plates. Keep taking the blood pressure medication…
If we’re so distracted by all the noise that we can’t focus on how we feel, we won’t notice if we’re not happy. We can keep on running indefinitely, and never fully realize how much we’re hurting. So, we keep running. We don’t have to look at it. Because if we look, if we allow ourselves to feel your emotions, we might have to change something. We might have to fix it. No wonder we keep inventing more noisemakers and new ways to suck up every last waking second of our time.
So, what if we could hit a reset button? What if we could get a do-over? Who would you be? What would your life look like? It all comes back to priorities and what feels good. What would happen if you gave it all up? If you lived in a simple cabin in the woods, surrounded by nature. How does it feel to imagine yourself being able to take a relaxed walk through the forest, stopping by a stream to meditate or read a book, have a real conversation with friends for hours, spend real time with those you love. What if you had all the time you’ve ever wanted? What does it feel like to think about making the life you really want to have and the people you really want to be with your FIRST priority?
The point is, that this doesn’t have to a hypothetical situation. No, I’m not saying we should all go back to the stoneage. But we can definitely stop running, take a breath, and assess what’s truly important in our lives (and what’s not).
I met a young man yesterday who quit his job a year ago to become a full time musician. He hasn’t become famous, but he’s travelling the world and playing steady gigs almost nightly. More importantly, he’s happy. He’s doing something he’s passionate about, he’s meeting tons of interesting people, he’s living life on his own terms and he’s making enough money to be comfortable. He realized that his life, as it was, wasn’t making him happy and he took himself out of the rat race.
I’m in the wonderful position of being able to meet people like this on a regular basis; people who are starting their own businesses, people who not only dream about location independent living, but are making it a reality, people who have completely reassessed their priorities and have decided that nothing is as important as their happiness.
Is it risky? That depends on how you define risk. To me, living a life that may be “safe” but makes you wake up full of dread every day, is risky. And you don’t have to completely overhaul your life. Just stop running for a minute or two and take a moment to think about what’s important to you. Cut out the noise. Listen to your heart. And then, make whatever changes you’re comfortable with. Your reset button can be big or small. Stop reading your emails at all hours of the day and take a walk outside. Call up that friend you’ve been meaning to get together with and finally have dinner and a great chat. Consider living in a smaller house so you don’t have to work as much. Move to Costa Rica and spend your days at the beach. Each of us has to decide for ourselves what actions we’re willing to take, and how much pain and unhappiness we’re willing to put up with.
I do have one warning for you: once you start down this road, you can’t really go back. Once you taste a bit of freedom, a bit of relief, once you see just how easy it is to go after what you want (because these changes only seem scary but once you start implementing they’re so much easier than you think), you’ll be less and less willing to put up with feeling bad. Following your dreams will change you. You’ll become one of the happy, shiny people. You’ll become an inspiration to others who wish they had the courage to do what you’re doing. And that applies if you’re an executive who actually makes it to his son’s baseball games, or if you sleep in a hammock in the Rainforest.
You are supposed to be happy. You life is supposed to be filled with passion and joy. And if it currently isn’t, if you’re so bogged down by distractions that you’re barely able to breathe, just cut out the noise for a minute and hit the reset button. Go on. I dare you. Do it before your neighbors get there first.