In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time - literally - substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.
This Peter Drucker quote has inspired a great deal of my yoga and meditation practice over the years. When I pay attention, it's clear that my choosing skills are not where I want them to be. I have spent way too much time over the last few weeks scrolling endlessly through social media feeds, clicking instinctively from news article to op-ed to meme to photo gallery to live stream... just caught in a cycle of cheap information binging. When the going gets tough, I get on Facebook.
I choose to do all of that. But it doesn't feel like a choice. That's because, like so many of us, I'm used to choosing by default rather than design. The drivers of my decisions tend to be instinct, habit or burst of emotion. The part of me with goals, dreams, and a desire for fulfillment and purpose has abdicated its leadership role and outsourced choosing to simple, immediate mental flashes and fluctuations.
This is why I practice yoga and meditation. Because I need them! And I know I'm not alone.
In my experience, one key for us to "manage ourselves," as Peter Drucker put it, lies in developing habits and mental patterns that point towards awareness and gentle, graceful restraint.
There's a metaphor many of my meditation teachers use; they talk about the various seeds we have within us, and ask us to notice which seeds we are watering because those are the seeds that are likely to grow. I clearly recognize within myself the seeds of addiction and passivity. Yet I also recognize the seeds of focus, dedication, and thoughtful purpose. So these days, I practice cultivating and curating my environment to water the seeds I would like to see sprout. There are so many ways to work on this. But today, I feel particularly inspired to share some of the wonderful pieces of technology that have helped me focus, manage myself, and choose to live more by design.
Headspace is the best meditation iPhone app I have yet discovered. It's simple, well-designed, and weaves accessible (and visual!) teachings about the practice into its recorded meditation library. I sit with Headspace every single day. For those of you who have tried to meditate daily and failed, this may be the tool that helps you create and keep the habit. Andy - the creator and voice of Headspace - now feels like an old friend. He makes mediation relatively easy to commit to and remarkably rewarding.
Audible is Amazon's audiobook subscription service. I pay a monthly fee and receive a credit to purchase an audiobook. By its very design, Audible helps me turn listening into a habit. It also helps me cultivate patience and conscious decision-making. And for me, audiobooks are incredibly conducive to focus and dedication. They present complex ideas in the span of hours, days, weeks and months - unlike the bite-sized attention-deficit-inducing packets of information we consume on social media and via advertising.
Trello is a "kanban" task management application for my laptop and phone. It's a visual way of organizing tasks and ideas not unlike moving sticky notes around on a wall. In general, I think creating long to-do lists can be unrewarding and unproductive. But Trello makes the process of deciding what to do - and how to do it - a creative and conscious endeavor. it helps me clarify what is important and how my goals and tasks are related to one another. Although many tasks may be visible at once, Trello helps me avoid the tendency to multi-task and get overwhelmed, and instead helps me complete things in an efficient, one-at-a-time, flow-state way.
Conventional wisdom states that because of technology, we are able to share information with greater speed and ease than ever before. But in my experience, certain kinds of information are getting easier to share, while other kinds are getting harder. The information contained in relationships and conversations, for example, can be tough for some of us to access via the dominant technologies of the day. Podcasts - especially those that utilize the interview format - are an innovation that creates and conveys the information of relationship and conversation better than most. One of my favorite podcast series is Yoga Revealed with Alec Vishal Rouben. His interviews are insightful and his subjects are excellent and intriguing - if you're curious, start by listening to his discussions with Matt Kapinus, Rob Loud, and David Magone.