Meredith Bell says to me, “I’d like to talk about unobligating ourselves.”
Meredith is the host of the “Strong for Performance” podcast and an excellent communicator. Meredith had requested that we talk about the principles in my book The Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating a Mindful Life in a Distracted World while we were recording a conversation for her show last week.
One of them is not wasting our time.
That afternoon, fate had me chatting with Dr. Juan Jose Reyes. Juan is a soft-spoken Paraguayan physician who has settled in South Florida.
Juan left a successful pediatric practice of 20 years a few years ago. Juan resorted to mindfulness when his life’s stress became too much, as he was plagued with tangible tensions and worry.
Juan ended his career as a pediatrician for good. I became a self-employed mindfulness instructor. That is the pinnacle of freedom.
To be clear, being unobligated does not mean that you quit your work or become a mindfulness instructor (although mindfulness is highly encouraged).
But here’s the thing about obligation: we commit ourselves at work because we don’t think we have a choice. Even in the absence of external obligations, we obligate ourselves with tremendous abandon in the remainder of our lives. We don’t know how to come to a halt.
It seems like an unattainable goal to carve out unobligated time.
We bemoan the fact that we don’t have enough time to accomplish all we want. It’s a genuine statement for many of us.
We don’t have nearly enough time. We want for a break from our responsibilities.
This period is referred to as “me-time” by some. It’s a somewhat pejorative word that conjures up images of self-indulgence and narcissism.
When I hear these descriptions, I become nauseous because I don’t want to be any of them.
I immediately obligate this time when I claim a piece of “me-time.” I receive the spa treatment I’ve been putting off for months, a long-overdue facial.
I finally get to play squash with my buddy Raul, and I finally get to watch the French film that my friend Lori has been raving about.
I know, they are all great stuff. Time is still obligated.
Here, we’re talking about something a little more radical: A period of time during which you make no obligations. There isn’t a single one.
Because you don’t know what you’ll be thinking about next Saturday morning. What you may want to do, and what you might not want to do
You get out of bed in the morning. You may want to go for a run.
You may not be able to. You may or may not sip a cup of coffee.
You may choose to read a book. You may not be able to.
You will eat because you are hungry, not because it is mealtime. You can lay in bed for 30 minutes and do nothing except gaze at the ceiling.
You may hop in your vehicle and drive around aimlessly. You have complete freedom to stop anywhere you choose.
You have the option to leave at any time.
Most importantly, you are free to disregard the narrative about what you should be doing with your time. The tale of your responsibility.
You have the opportunity to listen to yourself.
Your experiment without responsibility
I know it sounds impossible. You’ve got a family. You have a family.
They need your assistance. Your partner yearns for spending time with you.
And you adore your loved ones, including your family, spouse, children, and friends.
There’s more to it. There are even more reasons to avoid committing to anything.
It’s just for a short period of time, so don’t feel obligated. Perhaps a day. A day and a half.
It’s all up to you.
Make a schedule for your free time. I understand the contradiction. The people to whom you feel obliged will be alright.
This is what unscheduled time can do for you. You will be able to hear yourself.
- You have the option of saying yes to your aspirations. You have the option of ignoring them.
- You get to notice every idea, urge, hunch, desire, whim, and bodily signal, which is more significant.
- You have the opportunity to be honest with yourself. You also have a say.
- You begin to free yourself from the shackles of time one moment at a time. You piece together the puzzle of what you should be doing with your free time.
- You get the ability to be yourself.
It might be a bit unsettling.
If you’ve ever visited a quiet retreat, you’ve had a peek of free time. To assist your peaceful reflection, a silent retreat is typically arranged by a particular spiritual organization or community.
It does this by ensuring that your most fundamental bodily requirements are fulfilled. The organizers may place different levels of structure on how the quiet time is spent.
A quiet retreat, above all, eliminates your access to familiar distractions. You don’t stop doing, and you keep doing.
The escape doors have been shut. You become motionless.
You’re still in obligated time, however.
You will make the most extreme personal decision when it comes to unobligated time. You have the option of remaining quiet if you so choose.
You get to prepare a fantastic dinner for everyone you care about. You are free to design anything you want.
You have the opportunity to observe your aspirations. All of the escape doors are wide open.
You get to use a large interior canvas to play on. You also get to explore an endless outside world.
You get your decision back for that sliver of time.
Everything that follows is influenced by what you hear, act on, and walk away from during unobligated time. We become more genuine with others as we become more honest with ourselves.
Every following moment becomes richer.
Unrestricted time is a wonderful playground where we approach each second with the wonder of a kid and the knowledge of an adult.
Please forgive me if this is self-evident. It’s nice to have some unscheduled time.
What’s to stop you?
Thanks to Achim Nowak at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.