“If a person gave your body away to some passerby, you’d be furious, yet you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along so they may abuse you” - Epictetus
As the psychological stems from the physiological state we sit in according to Nietzsche, I think this quote from Epictetus shows the interconnectedness of how people, events, and situations outside of our control steal away our physical attention and, thereby, steal away our mental capacity for productivity, fulfillment, or self-actualization.
Just the other day, I am headed to class on the sixth floor of a 14-floor building. Like any other passing period, the lines for the elevator stretch to the building’s exterior, roughly forty people deep. A girl from my class holds the door for me, and I watch her step into the elevator line. As I myself am too impatient to wait, I take the stairs and get to my classroom early. Since I am early, I whip out my laptop, find another law firm to apply to, craft an email with my resume attached, and send it. Just as I hit send, the girl from the elevator line finally gets to class.
Now, I am not telling you this story to tell you to stop taking the elevator. After every run, I love taking the elevator up to the locker room and giving myself some rest. The point I am driving home here is that I faced a choice of how I wanted to set the tone for when I entered that classroom — idleness or activity.
If I decided to wait in line for the elevator, I inevitably would’ve whipped out my phone and become lost in a trance of texting and scrolling. I would’ve physically slowed myself down to a halt, and cognitively stopped the positive momentum gained from a morning of deep work and reading. Both my mind and body would’ve become effectively subject to the unpredictable laws of the elevator line, and I would’ve been time agonizing the line.
Instead, I chose a tone of activity. By choosing the stairs and keeping myself active, I bide myself some time to focus on the next course of action. Since I can’t really check my phone while taking the stairs, my mind is planning what I will do with the extra time before class. I could study for the final, work on a presentation, or, hey, why don’t I send another email to an employer?
Within the few minutes I saved by taking the stairs, I could’ve sent the email that gets me a job and alters my summer plans entirely. But aside from utilizing the stairs to bag a couple minutes of time back, the stairs allowed me to keep chugging forward. I propelled myself from waking up, hitting a deep work session, listening to an audiobook on the way to class, climbing the stairs, and shooting an email.
The stairs served as a means of keeping positive momentum moving forward. So ask yourself, where are you losing momentum in your life? If you drive through downtown traffic to get to work, could you take the public transit and work on the train? If you’re waiting for that pot of coffee to brew, could you make your bed or wipe down the counter?
And as a final note, this is not a hate on leisure time. Like I said, after a good afternoon run, I love waiting for the elevator and chatting it up with my teammates, but this is because the day’s work is completed and my only remaining tasks are running, making dinner, and recovering. Idle time has its place. Decide when and where you wish to keep positive, productive momentum in your life, find ways to keep both your body and your mind moving in an efficient direction, and you’ll find yourself energized to get work done.
Have an awesome week!
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