This is the fifth installment of The Slacker's Guide To Success, based on my work with teens, young adults and their families. The introduction can be found here. The other chapters are available here.
Step Four: Generativity
A great sage once said: "When one reaches the end of one's life and goes to the great equalizer in the sky, they will not be asked 'why were you not the best Gandhi you could be?' or 'why were you not the best Martin Luther King Jr. you could be?' they will be asked, 'why were you not the best you you could be?'"
So many young people live through their computers, texting, emailing and bbm-ing so that face time -- the time they are face-to-face with people -- becomes less and less part of their social lives. How many parents text their kids while they are both in the very same house?
This ends up giving us "bathrobe syndrome." If most of us are connecting through our digital words, why bother getting dressed, or shaving, or brushing our teeth. Might as well stay unbathed in our Snuggies. To continue that thought: how much do our words mean when we can delete them or delete an unappreciated reply so that it's as if it never happened?
So, why bother? (Have you heard that question before?)
We need to own what we do. The truth is that it is the things we do just for ourselves, things that we do on a daily basis, things we do when we are inspired but also when we are sick of doing them that builds character and creates something I call Generativity. I am defining Generativity as things that one does that improve the quality of life in any way, moment by moment.
The first step in Generativity is daily organization.
Whether it's making sure your workspace is noise-free (visual noise that is), or should your doctor knock on your door and inform you that it's time for your yearly physical (this hypothetical doctor does house calls) you would be ready.
But wait! There's more! I call it "the daily routine."
It is the daily routine that will help you "own" your life. It is a model that will be useful in helping empower you in all parts of your life, once you have it down.
Pick four things that are really meaningful to you, one from each of the following columns:
1) Meditation (self-reflection, mindfulness meditation, yoga, visualization, etc.)
2) Exercise (speed walking, biking, brisk dog-walking, tai chi etc.)
3) Creativity (writing, music, sculpture, etc.)
4) Helping Others (charity, chores, volunteering, etc.)
Choose one day of the week to be your day off.
Start with five to 15 minutes of each exercise per day, six days a week. Keep a daily chart of how much time you do in each part of your daily practice and when you don't do exactly that amount of time you wanted to do the day before, look it over judgment-free and figure out what threw you off from your routine. Then choose your own way to minimize your distractions and succeed a little more next time.
Increase your time by about 20 per cent a month until you end up with a daily routine that takes from one to two hours.
What this does is give you the tools to own your own life.
The young adults I work with find that this is truly transformative. There is a power and self-confidence that comes from a daily practice. I've heard it said that true character comes from continuing on with what you have committed to do once the thrill of the newness has worn off and you are left with the day-to-day grind to reach the next level.
The great advantage about these routines is that if they are connected to things you are passionate about, they will teach you the power there is in working daily on things you love and if you are only partially passionate about them, pretend to be passionate and pretty soon you will be. Anything you wish to be can come true for those who believe in it, say it to themselves continually and act on it. But don't wish to be Santa, it doesn't work... trust me.
Each moment of the day makes or unmakes character -Oscar Wilde