A Lesson in Passion, and Balance, from Dr. Dre

Yesterday afternoon, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Tim Ferriss Show. He was interviewing Cal Fussman, the “interview master” himself, best known for his “What I Learned” feature in Esquire magazine. At one point in the three-hour segment, they briefly touched on Cal’s interview with Dr. Dre – specifically, Dr. Dre’s take on passionate pursuits.

Fussman asked him, “What’s the longest you’ve gone, working on a passion project, without sleep?” His answer? 72 hours. 72 hours! That’s THREE days! This was just unimaginable to me. I have never felt passionate enough about anything to stay up for 3 days. I need my 8 hours, right? So I felt kinda bummed out. I guess I’m just not a passionate person, or maybe I haven’t found my passion yet, I thought. How boring am I? What’s wrong with me?

Then this morning it hit me. My health and maintaining balance in my life ARE my passions! Getting enough rest is something that I’m passionate about! Does that count? I don’t know. I’ll admit that I’m (sometimes) a little envious of people who are so passionate about the activities in their lives that they’re willing to sacrifice just about anything for them – sleep, health, relationships. Am I missing something there?

I suppose my slow-living, everything-in-moderation, baby-steps, super-balanced, small-incremental-changes way of life isn’t for everybody. I’m a postal worker and a writer, not a rap star. It’s not very exciting or glamorous, but it’s who I am, and I’m (mostly) OK with that.

Mostly.

~PEACE~

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Cool Podcasts for Downshifters

I recently started listening to podcasts during my half-hour commute to & from work every day. I know, I know… I’m arriving at this party a little late, but this is by far the best new thing to happen to my daily routine in a long time! Why didn’t I think of this before? Now I’m arriving at my day job energized and motivated, with my mind full of new input for my writing and creative pursuits. By the time I get home, I’ve usually jotted down a few new ideas and resources that I can’t wait to research and start working with.

Plus, podcasts are FREE, and soooo much safer than trying to read a book while I’m driving.

Since I’m just getting started, this is my very short list of the podcasts that have inspired me so far. I hope they’ll do the same for you. If you know of any other great podcasts that have helped you find balance, simplify your life, improve your writing, pursue your passions, live a healthier life, or form good habits, please share!

The Minimalists Podcast

In their new podcast, just launched last month, The Minimalists Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus discuss living a meaningful life with less stuff. This is the podcast that convinced me that podcasts were a good idea, so if you need convincing too, start here.

The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins

As he does in his books, Jeff Goins shares thoughts and ideas that will help you to pursue work that matters, make a difference with your art, and discover your true voice. Episode 003, “How to Chase a Dream Without Quitting Your Job,” is a must-listen. His guest list is a who’s-who of today’s heavy-hitting inspirational speakers and authors. The episodes featuring interviews with Gretchen Rubin (018) and Tim Ferriss (004) are among my favorites so far.

Speaking of Gretchen Rubin…

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

The #1 best-selling author of The Happiness Project shares her practical advice about happiness and good habits in this “lively, thought-provoking podcast.” Sometimes it gets a little corny, and her topics are widely varied, so I’m picky about which episodes I listen to, but Gretchen’s honest tried-and-true advice usually manages to enhance my happiness in unexpected ways.

And Tim Ferriss…

The Tim Ferriss Show

“Self-experimenter” and best-selling author Tim Ferriss “deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc.), digging deep to find the tools, tactics, and tricks that listeners can use.” I haven’t had a chance to listen to many episodes, but I love everything Tim does, and his wide-reaching guest list – from Seth Godin to Jamie Foxx – is guaranteed to engage and inspire.

Over It And On With It with Christine Hassler

Life coach and author Christine Hassler coaches live callers on the problems – and opportunities – we all face in relationships, careers, health, transitions, finances, life purpose, spirituality, or anything else they have questions about. She uses her signature balance of practical tools and spiritual principles to help us all overcome the obstacles that hold us back from living the lives we were meant to live.

All of these podcasts, and thousands more, are easily accessible via the iTunes store. Happy listening (and learning)!

~PEACE~

In The News: Being Too Busy Makes You Sick!

Our local TV station recently ran a feature on the dangers of “busyness” and the harmful effects it can have on our health:  Being Too Busy Can Make You Sick.

According to Dr. Charles Carrier, an internist at Catholic Medical Center, stress can really do a number on us physically: chest pains, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, depression, digestive issues, and more. And when our lives get too stressful and busy, we often neglect the activities that help keep us healthy —  mainly sleep, exercise, and good nutrition.

What does Dr. Carrier suggest we do? Slow down. Give something up. Learn to say no. Get adequate sleep (6-8 hours). For more info, check out the full Interview w/Dr. Charles Carrier MD.

Psychologist Dr. Denise Moquin hits the nail on the head: “You can’t underestimate the importance of quality of life.” She urges us to evaluate our activities and the demands on our time and make sure that they are in alignment with our values and priorities. For more info and helpful suggestions to take back your time, watch the entire Interview w/Dr. Denise Moquin.

We have a choice. We don’t have to live this way. Downtime is important!  I can’t say it enough. I’ve always felt like I require more downtime than most people, to the point where I thought there must be something wrong with me. Now I’m learning that I’m just human. We all are. Get some rest!

~PEACE~

Lessons in Scheduling

In my ongoing quest (OK, obsession) to maintain balance in my life, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I use my time and schedule my days. For a number of years, I’ve perfected a method that I like to call “making the most of small increments of time.” I try to do a little bit of everything, every day. Most days consist of:

  • Work, 5-8 hours
  • Housework, 45-60 minutes
  • Nap, 20 minutes
  • Get outside for a walk, 30-40 minutes
  • Pilates, 25 minutes
  • Reading, 20-30 minutes
  • Sleep, 7-8 hours
  • Etc.

For the most part, I thought this method was serving me well. But lately, I find myself wondering if this is really the best way to arrange my days. Although I feel like I’m staying on top of my daily chores and making slow progress toward some of my fitness goals, I also feel stressed if I don’t accomplish every little thing on the daily list, or if some items take longer than their allotted times, or (God forbid!) some unexpected turn of events causes me to deviate from my carefully-planned schedule. Downshifters hate rigid schedules! How did this happen to me?!

Ironically, I also feel like I’m using this everything/everyday scheduling method to avoid some important tasks that would require me to focus for longer periods of time, “go deep,” and ultimately achieve more personal satisfaction. (Seriously, when was the last time I wrote anything?!) Checking mindless tasks off the same to-do list every day doesn’t encourage my personal growth. And, while I derive more satisfaction from a clean kitchen floor than most sane people, it doesn’t even come close to the exhilaration of hitting “Publish” on a blog post.

I’ve grown to realize that, while I thought I was mastering the domains of time-management and self-discipline, I neglected to incorporate my deeper needs and core values into the program. I know that my happiness depends on allowing ample time for creative pursuits — learning, growing, and challenging myself. For that, I’m willing to make some of the mundane tasks a lower priority.

I will keep reminding my neat-freak self, “The laundry can wait. Today I write!”

~Peace~

It’s Time

Last May, I made a conscious decision to take the summer off from this blog, and from writing in general. I worked at the post office as little as I could get away with. We took a few short road trips to coastal Maine and the White Mountains, walked and hiked with the dogs, and enjoyed time with friends and family. We made leisure a priority.

But as much as I enjoyed my endless summer vacation, I really missed writing. I forgot my own advice. Downshifting is all about BALANCE, making time for the things that are important to you. For me, writing is absolutely one of those things. Without it, I felt like my equilibrium was off. I carried a vague sense of dissatisfaction, like I was drifting aimlessly through my days. Another lesson learned.

In September, my second cousin passed away from ALS. She was 52 years old. Until now, I had foolishly operated under the assumption that I had unlimited time. I’m 44 now. I plan to live to be 100. Plenty of time to accomplish all the things I want to do, right? No sense of urgency. No need to rush.

My cousin’s death really made me think, what if I don’t have as much time as I thought? What if my life suddenly ended next week or next year? Would I be proud of all that I had accomplished, or regret all the things I never finished, or even started?

The term Downshifting means slowing down, but it also implies that we are still moving forward, just in a more mindful way. Even if I only write for 15 minutes a day, I still experience a deep sense of accomplishment. Making steady progress toward a goal (like writing a book, perhaps?) is a fundamental part of happiness. Striving to live up to our potential is key to the pursuit of personal fulfillment.

Don’t we all deserve that?

~Peace~

 

 

How Do You Define Downshifting?

Since I started this blog, I’ve learned from quite a few people about what downshifting means to them.

  • For one friend, downshifting isn’t about cutting back on work hours, but rather streamlining his home life — selling his house now that the kids are grown, moving to a condo with his wife, decluttering, relaxing, and eliminating unnecessary time obligations.
  • One of my favorite bloggers, Mr. Woodpecker at A Good Day To Live, strives to minimize his work commitments in order to have more time to travel and enjoy leisure time with his wife and young children.
  • My best friend dreams of living in a camper trailer after her teenage children are on their own, with less stuff and more time to pursue her passions and hobbies.
  • Another favorite blogger, Green and Thrifty, longs for a small farm where she can grow her own veggies and raise her kids, along with a few chickens and other critters.
  • My husband looks forward to retiring and downsizing our home, cutting back on yard work, and possibly moving to a warmer climate where shoveling and plowing snow will be a distant memory, and daily walks on the beach with the dogs will be our new routine.

My own definition of downshifting continues to evolve. I often dream of quitting my post office job, and simply sitting on the front porch with my laptop and writing. But you know what? As much as I hate to admit it, job security is an important piece of my downshifting puzzle. Since I actually like my job, and I was recently able to cut back my work schedule from 41 hours a week to 35, I guess I’ll stick it out for now. I suppose I’d get bored sitting on the porch all the time anyway. 🙂

I occasionally fantasize about doing some really radical downshifting, like selling everything, living in a tiny house on wheels, or a camper, or a yurt, growing my own food, and living off the land, and off the grid, without an income. I admire, OK envy, people who live this way. But at this stage of my life, I have to admit, that’s just not for me. I LOVE the IDEA of this kind of extreme minimalism, but I believe that my ideal balance lies somewhere between that and where I’m at now. I want less stuff, but I like clothes. And books. I appreciate reliable indoor plumbing. And high-speed wireless internet. I like to go out to eat and have a cocktail once in a while. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so.

We all have our own ideas about what downshifting really means. It’s all about finding the right BALANCE. And that balance is as unique to each of us as our fingerprints. No personal definition of downshifting is wrong. We all have different priorities and different situations. I work in the public sector, my husband is self-employed. We live in a rural area, and have a small mortgage. We have no children, just two dogs. Our goals and priorities are going to be very different from people with high-level corporate jobs or huge mortgages, who live in expensive cities, or have other dependents to factor into the equation.

Most of us are fortunate enough to be in a position where we can even think about seeking balance and personal fulfillment. We have the luxury of choice. Many people in this world don’t have the options we have. I have a college education, a high credit score, and retirement savings. My income is more than enough to cover my basic needs. I’m not worried about keeping a roof over my head or wondering where my next meal will come from. I have ENOUGH. But I know plenty of people who are not so blessed. I try to remind myself of my good fortune whenever I start to get discouraged about my life path, or feel like I’m not downshifting fast enough.

We have the power to make our own choices about how we want to live our lives. Don’t take it for granted, or waste the opportunities that lie ahead. We can do whatever we want, and live however we want to live. We just have to figure out what we want. Sometimes that requires separating our true desires from what other people (parents, government officials, marketing executives) have told us we should want. It’s a challenge, but if it’s the biggest hurdle we face in the course of a day or a week or a year, then we should consider ourselves lucky.

What does your dream life look like? What are the steps required to get from where you are now to where you want to be? Your goals probably aren’t as far out of reach as you think. It wasn’t until I first heard the term “downshifting” a few years ago that I realized I’ve been on that path for over 10 years! As I continue to make mindful choices and gradual changes, I feel my life becoming more balanced, my soul more fulfilled. I have ENOUGH. And on a really good day, I think, “I’m THERE.”

If you’re looking for guidance or inspiration as you develop your own definition of downshifting, check out some of the great blogs I follow, listed here on Downshifter’s Journal. Visit my Resources page for helpful books and websites where you’ll find advice and real-life stories of people from all walks of life who have made mindful choices and found their ideal equilibrium on the downshifting scale. Why shouldn’t you join them?

~~PEACE~~

 

Friday Favorites: Free Range Humans!

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Friday Favorites: Free Range Humans!

For the past two weeks, I’ve been immersed in Marianne Cantwell’s book Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills. 

I’ve read quite a few of the “Discover Your Passion, Follow Your Dream, and Live a Life You Love”-type books over the years, but most of them left me flat. They encourage you to dream big, offer exercises to help you figure out your strengths and passions, but fall short when it comes time to develop and implement the plan to take you from where you are now to where you need to be.

THIS BOOK IS DIFFERENT!

Cantwell dares us to dream the dream, but follows through with the concrete strategies to make those dreams a reality. As a life coach and former Career Cage Human herself, she draws on her own experiences, as well of those of her clients, to guide us all down the not-so-scary path to earning a living on our own terms. She offers dozens of case studies in order to help us come up with our own ideas, test them, and put them into action.

“Employment is risky,” she cautions. Real job security comes from being in control of your own time and income, not from being at the mercy of a single employer. Her Free Range lifestyle seeks the less-risky middle road between employment and entrepreneurialism.

Cantwell’s unique coaching strategy emphasizes:

  • Differentiating your product or service by playing to your own unique individual strengths, experiences, and knowledge.
  • Getting started, QUICKLY, and for little-to-no money.
  • Optimizing your limited resources for maximum impact in development, marketing, etc.
  • Working wherever, whenever, and however YOU choose.

Once you read the book and adopt the Free Range Human mindset, you’ll never be willing to settle for a regular job again!

~~PEACE~~