Lockdown learning: #4 Activity isn’t purpose

A short series of 2 minute observations…

I can get easily bored and so quite a full diary is great – things to do and goals to aim for. So in Lockdown week ten I should be a bit frustrated.

I am definitely missing many of the things that I normally do and people that I see but the enforced stop has brought benefits and not just the absence of traffic outside the house.

It is giving me time to practice reflecting.

Although I did a lot of this as a student – often with others, late into the night  – as a solo pursuit it is a skill that I seem to have developed with age. I find that it drives me to ask the question ‘why?’ –  I challenge my assumptions and it turns everyday experiences sometimes into fascinating events.

With my diary suffering a whiteout I have been reflecting on whether my pre-lockdown busyness was a good thing…

… and too often I get busy because I like activities. They are fun, they feed relationships, create valuable practical outcomes. Sometimes they also reward with the experience of ‘flow’ ( “…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi))

I get all this (except for the playing jazz bit!) but the outcome, on reflection, is that it is too easy to get absorbed in activity with low value. It distracts from other concerns. but too often it squeezes the important what and how out and buries them under the mundane. Real priorities get too little time.

It needs a predisposition to screen things and be more focused on what is really worthwhile… but  what are the good things to be done?

This hinges on my purposes in life. Busy can cloud purpose unless we are very clear about it. Yet ‘worthwhile’ activities are only those that advance that purpose both in what they are and how they are done. A tough test.

It is purpose that creates the meaning not the activity. The tendency is to think that ‘flow’ and an actioned ‘to do’ list  deliver value but I don’t think so . A look at my diary suggests more focus is needed.

Especially so, if like me , you don’t think purpose can be created but only discovered. Maybe time to look at the three moral domains of the Greeks – truth, goodness and beauty rather than fun, distraction and absorption.

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