The Freedom of Deliberately Not Knowing What You’re Doing
At this time of year a lot of us end up, in one way or another, trying to refresh out lives. Several lazy days of sofa-ridden turkey-eating sloth give us just enough time to refill our energy supplies from the previous year. We set goals, make plans and try to turn over a new leaf. And, when we do, we tend to make even greater demands on the structured, disciplined use of our time than we have before.
Practice Makes Perfect
Now I’m not as cynical about resolutions as many other people are. I’ve written about the power that habits can have over improving your life before. When it comes to success, habits and routine are everything…well, almost.
The problem with structuring and managing your time so tightly is that even if you succeed and turn yourself into some kind of success-soldier or efficiency-robot, you end up feeling tired, bored and empty. I say this from experience. Last year I set myself the goal (at about this time of year) of forming 12 new habits in 12 months. Although I got results (fitter, healthier and wealthier amongst them) I ended up feeling burned out again by the time it got to turkey-eating time.
The Trouble With Good Habits
Habit and routine makes you consistent. It makes you disciplined, productive and reliable. It also makes you boring if its all you ever do. What is the point of success if it doesn’t give you the freedom to do things you’ve never been able to do before? And why can’t you be free, fun and spontaneous at the same time as being a grandmaster of getting things done?
What you need is the opposite of a habit; the exact reverse of trying to control what happens…
Habits, routine, structure and planning ahead have these characteristics:
- Planned in advance
- Thought through
- Figuring out how to accomplish something in advance (working back from a result to the process required)
- Defining how long it takes / how much it costs / how the activity will end beforehand
- Use of imagination before to design an activity
- Usually a project (course of action to be taken over a longer period) / a habit (to be repeated regularly)
- Can be complex but broken down into simpler bits
- Must mainly be scheduled in advance of doing it
So ‘unstructure’ would have the following:
- No detailed planning in advance
- Taking an impulse to go and do something and running with it
- Not knowing what is going to happen (spontaneously trying out a process or activity and seeing what the result is)
- Not knowing exactly how long it will take / how much it will cost / where it will lead
- Spontaneous use of imagination and creativity
- Novel / one-off / unique activity
- Can be started immediately
Anything Could Happen
This year I’m going to make at least one day a week free to deliberately not know what I’m doing. I’m going to do something I wouldn’t normally do and I’m going to actively not plan ahead what that will be. I’m not going to work out how to do it before I attempt it and I won’t be thinking about how long it will take. I’d love to predict what the result will be but that would kind of defeat the point: to actively focus on the spontaneous urge to try something rather than willing myself to gain the result of having completed it.
It’s an experiment I invite you to try and over the coming weeks I’ll be writing about the results.