A few months ago I was challenged by a documentary (Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things) combined with this blog post. The underlying question in each was the challenge to ask yourself a question: Does this add value to my life?
If yes, then accept / pursue / fight for / enjoy.
If no, then disregard / leave it be / do not invest in.
When I sat down to take a deeper look into this question and my life, it was at a time of change – a new job looming and end of a very draining job; a spontaneous trip to visit a dear friend; working full time and writing articles on the side. When explaining the article writing to others, it went something like, “It’s fine! The extra money is nice. The content of the writing is okay, but nothing that will develop into anything else or that I particularly enjoy.”
So I gave it the question: Does this add value to my life?
And I stopped to think about how it added money, and a number of tangible items from that money (such as the paint for our walls and the new faucet in the bathroom sink, along with a handful of others house projects within our first year of home ownership). But when I asked if it added value, I thought about how I rushed through my lunch hours, working away so I wouldn’t have to do those things that evening. How I would work for 1-2 hours right after I finished work, trying to finish things before J got home from work. How I got into the rhythm of one big, long, ever-renewing-itself to-do list. And I thought, “Does this add value to my life right now?”
And I decided that it didn’t. Even though the money was nice and we’re supposed to hustle when we’re young, what it was taking from my day to day life was more than what it was giving back.
Now, nearly four months later, I can see how my life was becoming lists and measures of productivity (that somehow in America correlate directly to your value or worth, but that’s a subject for another post). Since then I’ve felt a renewed sense of enthusiasm (or simply put courage) for daily living and not simply “getting it done.” How daily living is not something to be checked off, rushed through, or squandered. Everyday living is a gift and the ability to take it slow, to take a step back, to create a home that is a sanctuary – a reprieve from the busyness of the world – adds much more value than all the things on the checklist could ever add up to (no matter how good it feels to check them off).
Answering one question, truthfully, and deciding to act upon that answer, led me to make a change that has changed my life. I feel more at peace and present in daily life than I have for a long time. Over the past few months as I’ve thought about projects on my mental list, things I want to do, daily tasks, and general home upkeep, my mind has wandered back to the question of “does this add value?” And the answer is sometimes yes but other times it is no, and being able to draw that distinction has allowed me to peacefully move forward. Sometimes deep cleaning adds value and sometimes, when you’re gone more than you’re home and things are busy, connecting with your family adds more than a perfectly curated home. Reflecting on the idea of value and concretely tying it to actions and choices in my daily life allows me to let go sometimes and to hold on tightly other times.
Is there anything in your life that is nagging at you? Not quite great but not awful yet? Do you take the time to rank the input vs. the output for habits we develop? Since I’ve started asking myself this question, I’m convinced it’s worth taking the time every few months to sit down and really examine our daily lives and ask: does X add value and meaning? I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on how to keep priorities in daily and not getting whisked away into habits or arbitrary expectations.