Energy makes time

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I’m a big believer that being a little selfish is a prerequisite to being able to be selfless. In other words, you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.

A version of this same idea is well articulated in the post Energy makes time (via Mario Fraioli).

Not only does spending time on what you care about make you happier and healthier, it makes you MUCH BETTER at doing everything else (like being a caretaker for someone else for example).

Here’s a concrete example, and perhaps a familiar one: someone is so busy with work and caretaking that they don’t make time for their art. At the end of the day they’re too tired to write or paint or make music or whathaveyou. So they don’t. Days, then weeks go by. They are more and more tired. They are getting less and less done. They take a mental health day and catch up on sleep but the exhaustion persists. Their overwhelm grows larger, becomes intolerable. The usual tactics don’t work. The catapult trundles closer.

Then one day they say fuck it all. They eat leftover pasta over the sink, drop mom off at her mahjongg game, and go sit in the park to draw. They draw for hours, until the sun goes down and they’re squinting under the street lights. And, lo and behold, the next day they plow through all those lingering to-dos. They see clearly that half of them were unnecessary when before they all seemed critical. They recognize a few others as things better handed off to their peers. They suddenly find time for attending to that one project they’d been procrastinating on for weeks. They sleep better. Their skin looks great. (Okay I might be exaggerating on that last one, but only mildly.)

It turns out, not doing their art was costing them time, was draining it away, little by little, like a slow but steady leak. They had assumed, wrongly, that there wasn’t enough time in the day to do their art, because they assumed (because we’re conditioned to assume) that every thing we do costs time. But that math doesn’t take energy into account, doesn’t grok that doing things that energize you gives you time back. By doing their art, a whole lot of time suddenly returned. Their art didn’t need more time; their time needed their art.

As my favorite Peloton star/personal motivational coach puts it:

“In order to give light, you must receive it.”

Alex Toussaint

Comments welcome!

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