Can You Handle the 9 to 9 Challenge?
I think this is normal, but I'm not sure it's the best thing for us. I'm not opposed to those websites and use many of them. I consider them assets to communication, business, marketing and entertainment. But a few weeks ago I heard two men talking on a podcast I love and their conversation had my mind reeling in the best way possible. (It's free to listen to and all kinds of wonderful, so check it out.) What the podcast's guest talked about was the feeling of lacking so many of us consider normal now. He explained how we are now forced to constantly compare ourselves to others, thanks to social media. You may not even realize you are doing it, or it is happening, but it is.
That struck me. They went on to talk about this in detail. The man explained that while those websites do have lots of inspiration and friendly news, we also can't help but compare our lives to other lives in our news feed. You read about people's accomplishments, purchases, new haircuts, birthday parties, weight loss, awards, date nights, perfect food, babies, new cars, and so on into minutia. No matter how self aware and wholesome you may be, it is in our natures to devour all this information and internalize it. We compare ourselves, find desires we can't have, and vacations we can't take. You'll find something about yourself that is lacking, no matter what. This may motivate you or depress you, but either way you are starting your day with lack.
You. Are. Lacking. Nothing.
You don't need to buy anything, be anyone else, achieve anything wondrous, or take photos of your sushi to feel fulfilled. You don't need to start your day with ads telling you otherwise. You don't need to hear about Becky's toddler's gym pass. You don't need to get scared, angry, confused, or sad. And I really think forcing this level of socialization at the beginning and end of our days makes our lives worse. Let all that stuff come into your brain after you already took time for yourself to set your own mood, goals, gratitude and love for yourself that day. The planes still crashed and Steve still caught that giant bass, but you can wait till you remind yourself you already are perfection before you get into the shower... Start your day as a creator and not a consumer. Start it accepting, if only for a minute or two, that you're okay exactly as you are right now.
So here is what I'm proposing. I'm not saying you should avoid these sites but I am going to put a moratorium on them between the hours of 9PM and 9AM. Those 12 hours are the ends of my day, and since I am up several hours before 9 and go to bed several hours after nine - it means I am not bookending the dawn or dusk of my day with comparisons.
I know some of you will balk at this. You may love starting your day with the news (I'm not talking about weather, but news) or checking in with your tweets and wall. You don't feel that it effects you in any negative way. Great! Good for you! I still urge you to try this for three days, because even if you have nothing but fellow church members and family on Facebook the world of Social Media (and new media) is littered with ads, fluff stories, and the kind of stuff that crawls into your brain stem and can still poison you. Don't start your day with poison.
You have the entire day to read about horrors and tragedy. You can swing over to your favorite gossip site and diss celebrities and criticize novels after lunch. Can't wait to slam that new TV show in an Amazon review... how about you just shelf that till 9:01AM? Your morning is better than that, so is your evening. Make the commitment to create, love, thank, and praise in this time instead. You might discover you no longer have the desire to hurt when you take the time to heal instead.
So what to do with your free time? Now it's just you and the flaccid iPad at breakfast? How about watching, reading, or creating ANYTHING that puts you in a mood of happiness and gratitude. It doesn't have to be something new-agey and fluffy. I am talking basic. Avoid the news or that local columnist you can't stand and instead play your favorite bands' Tiny Desk Concert and dance in the kitchen. Put on a favorite movie that makes you laugh, and watch some of it while you sip your tea. Not into music or movies? Make that time a time for quiet and meditation. Read a favorite chapter from a novel you know by heart. Read a poem, pray to your God, or pet your dog and take a morning walk instead. Sit and count your breath and see if you can make yourself smile for one full minute. Get out a journal and write all the things you are so grateful to have in your life. Take that piece of paper and slip it into your pocket and carry it with you all day. Read anything that inspires you and makes you feel like anything is possible. Laugh at cat videos. Watch the birds at the feeder. It doesn't matter. Just don't start your day feeling lack. Start it loving.
It matters that the first thing you absorb in your day is something positive and empowering. I know that social media can have things like that but it also has all the other junk as well. You don't need to start your day going to a job you wish you could quit and first reading someone's update about how they just got a promotion and are moving to Bali to become a celebrity scuba instructor. Hell, you don't need to even hear about Linda's new Toyota Corolla. Why? That can all wait for after 9AM. You can start your day feeling that comparison and lack, a subtle self-flagellation, or choose to hold off until you took time to be quiet, grateful, smile and happy.
So that is my challenge. Can you give up social media, hard-hitting news, and any other sort of Lack Fishing at the beginning and end of your day? Can you start your day instead with a moment of thankfulness and joy and end your night without laying in bed wondering how you too can afford to take the family to DisneyWorld like the Stevensons? Just don't. End your day with laughter and love. Watch a comedy, have sex, prepare a meal, play a board game, high five fiends watching the game together with wings and beer... do anything but get sucked into that well of lack that is constant comparison.
What do you say? Can you try it for just three days?
I am going to try. I am going to start my days with music, creative writing, animals, design, and laughter. I will end my nights with friendship, comedy, and warmth. I have twelve hours between to read sad news stories, check all those social sites, and get distracted by Reddit AMAs. But I am taking back the hours from 9 to 9 and using those to make my own life one of bliss. And I bet if you make it three days you can make it a week. And if you can make it a week you may find yourself in a better place all together. How could you not be if every morning starts with a thankful heart and a reason to dance and every evening ends laughing?
So, Will you join me for the 9 to 9 Challenge?