Without access to the Internet, I spent some evenings last week relaxing in front of the television. One of the local stations was playing The Iron Lady, a story about Margaret Thatcher, so there were commercials galore advertising it. In that movie, the former Prime Minister quotes her father (who was repeating an ancient unattributed saying) with some lines that really stuck with me:
Watch your thoughts; they become your words.
Watch your words; they become your actions.
Watch your actions; they become your habits.
Watch your habits they become your character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
In next week’s post, I’ll be delving into the elements of personality, or character, that lead to your mist-shrouded destiny, but this week I’m thinking about last week's post where I talked about planning your resolutions using Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a handy checklist of the needs and desires that lie at the intersection of your body and mind. At the top of that list were the things we need to live self-actualized lives - morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance of facts, etc. We would all like to lead such lives, but turning that desire into action is not such an easy thing to do. Resolutions - actions intended to change our habits - are designed to do just that.
For my own New Year’s resolution, I didn’t want to pick just one or two typical actions like promising to eat better (a level one physiological need), write more (a level two safety need providing more employment security), or spend extra time with my wife (a level three need for love and belonging). I know that my days are already full. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do our lives. In the same way that gas expands to fit any container, so too do the tasks of our work or the details of our days. If I wanted to resolve to add a new task to my day, I’d need to make room for it somehow by cutting out some other less important task. But which one?
For my New Year’s resolution, I resolved to be better about choosing how I spend *all* of my time. I know that as I’ve made this leap to writing from home on a full time basis, I’ve slowly crafted an entirely new set of habits about how I spend my days and not all of them are as productive as I’d like them to be. In order to quantify just how out of balance these habits are (or are not), I decided to really measure what I was doing. Rather than just sit in philosophical contemplation until I deduced what felt like the right blend of action, I decided to take advantage of two things available to the modern philosopher - the fact that smart phones are with us at all times, and the apps that others have developed that can be put to good analytical use.
After a bit of searching, I chose to use HoursTracker to create a list of tasks that I fill my days with and then check in and out of those tasks as I do them so that I can evaluate at the end of each day, week, or month, exactly how well I’m apportioning the limited time I have on this earth. So far, I’m just exploring the use of the app and getting used to continually monitoring my actions. Since I’m between homes right now on a bit of a holiday before I settle in to Australia for 6 months, I’m not in any kind of routine that I can truly analyze just yet, but I can already tell you that just making a point to check in to my phone every time I am “playing games” or “websurfing” or “watching videos” is already forcing me to live a more examined life. I haven’t yet decided how to group my activities for analysis, but I’ll report back when I do. Having just turned 41, I’m approaching 500 months of life. I’m hoping for some radical life extension therapies to become a reality during the rest of my life, but if they don’t, then I probably have around 500 (give or take 100) months left. That is a graspable number and one I don’t want to squander any of. I want my time here to build towards something. I want to live Maslow’s self-actualized life. Soon, I’ll have some neat pie charts to show how I’m doing that. Those are my thoughts that have been turned into words that will turn into actions that will change my habits. That's my resolution.