Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I got an email this morning for a "stress-reduction class at MIT" (contradiction in terms, anyone?). That combined with the talk by Dan Gilbert (whose book Stumbling into Happiness is a must read) and the excellent talk on "how to achieve your childhood dreams" which I posted above gave me a great chance to think (yet again) about the choices we make about how to live our lives.

I have often expressed that I feel there is some tension between cultivating the kind of calm, content, peaceful, synthetic happiness, happy with the way things are . . . school of thought and the "life-hacker", squeeze every moment out of life, really change the world, burn ever brighter, life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all . . . school of thought. I find my life alternating at moments between the two and when I'm at either extreme, often idealizing the other pole. I do really think there is something to both. On the one hand, I can look back at times when I can really relate to how it's only when you're doing so much that you go through each day scared to death that you really grow and learn and push your boundaries. There is an exhilaration and a real sense of accomplishment once coming through a time like that. On the other hand, while there is a certain high from the adrenalin and sense of self-importance of being busy, I see the results in myself and friends of constant stress over a long period of time. So while there are advantages to each side, there are also drawbacks. If generated for too long, peace and calm, at least for me, quickly lead to boredom. Being stressed though leads to burnout, colds/flu, and lack of real fulfillment regardless of external accomplishment. Finding a razor's edge of balance between the two is not easy though.

Now that I am done with classes and have perhaps the largest amount of independence and control over my time ever, I have a lot of freedom to determine how my day is spent. It does seem though that drifting back and forth across these poles and reserving certain parts of the day or of the week for calm/peace is the way to go rather than the conventional wisdom of finding some kind of balance or going all towards one pole or the other...