Guidepost 7: Cultivating Play and Rest, Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
This guidepost has two big elements.
First, play. There are a few key properties of play:
- It’s time spent without purpose
- It’s something you don’t want to end (lose track of time)
- It dissolves your hyper-self-consciousness. You lose yourself in the action.
Play is the opposite of how most achievers live their lives: Everything has to be for a specific aim, time must be tracked intensely, and we’re constantly concerned with how we’re appearing to others.
As such, play is written off as trivial, or foolish.
But Stuart Brown, author of Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, begs to differ. He tells us that play isn’t a luxury. It’s actually a necessity for us to operate in the fullness of our potential.
This is because “The opposite of play is not work, the opposite of play is depression.”
Put another way: the more that play disappears from your life, the closer you move towards a state of depression.
The same goes for rest. Many people see rest as a luxury and vilify it with an “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” attitude.
But again, the exact opposite is true. Without appropriate rest, you prevent yourself from fully experiencing the moments of your days. I’d propose a revised version of the above quip: “Without sleep, I’m practically dead already.”
Furthermore, the TIME you spend working is a shoddy metric for progress. What matters most is the quality of the ATTENTION and ENERGY you bring to what you do.
Guidepost 8: Cultivating Calm and Stillness and Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
Imagine you have a pot of boiling water on the stove, and you want to cool it down. So you add a block of ice to the water. This cools it down briefly, but soon enough, the heat is back and the water is boiling. So you add more ice, and the process repeats. Soon enough, you’re out of ice, and the water is boiling over.
But what if you slowed down enough to turn down the heat on the stove? Or better yet, turned it off entirely?
This is the approach many people take with anxiety. They think “Anxiety has always been around in the past, I just need a better way to manage it.”
Which is like looking for bigger ice cubes instead of figuring out how to turn off the stove.
And understanding how to turn off that stove requires space in your life for calm and stillness. This is time for emotional processing and self-regulation. To feel what’s going on in your life, question, dream, and explore possibilities.