Today marks the two-year anniversary of when I put my belongings into storage and started living a mobile lifestyle.
That turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. I’ve lived, worked and taught in radically different cultures from East Asia, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, Europe and North and South America. I’ve spent time in some of the richest and poorest countries in the world. I’ve met incredible people and have had adventures that would never have happened if I’d stayed rooted in my hometown of Boston, MA, USA.
In short, the last two years have been an incredible, life-expanding experience.
But, as great as the last two years have been, ten days ago I have made the decision to turn my life inside out again. The change to my daily life I have planned for the coming year will be subtle, but I believe its impact will be even more life changing than my decision two years ago to live a mobile lifestyle.
Here is what I’ve committed to for the coming year, explained by way of a Facebook chat conversation with my buddy Mark Manson of Postmasculine fame. My conversation with Mark inspired me to chronicle my experiences in this blog.
Mark Fiveman: I’m considering turning my life inside-out next year.
Mark Manson: How so?
Mark Fiveman: Well, for the last couple of years my primary life context has been “getting stuff done” with a focus on earning money and developing my software business. Wellness, fitness and spiritual development have come second. In that time I’ve mostly failed to fit in activities that would support my wellness. There was always one more milestone to meet, one more goal to achieve. As a result my wellbeing has deteriorated fairly significantly.
Now I’m thinking it’s time to make wellbeing and development my primary context and fit traditional work and productivity within that. Not so that the focus on my wellbeing takes over as it did when I was doing the Body-Psyche work full time, but in the sense of flipping my primary life context from work to wellbeing.
Mark Manson: Cool. It also sounds really broad. What does “wellness and development” actually mean to you?
Mark Fiveman: Well, yeah, it is really broad: it includes physical health and vitality as well as emotional wellbeing and spiritual development. The impetus? I’ve aged in the last two years a lot faster than I had in the previous four. And I’m more out of touch with my body and emotions than I have been in a long time. In contrast, when I was doing the Body-Psyche work full time, by a lot of measures I was actually getting younger and more vital.
Mark Manson: That makes sense on a theoretical level, but how would your life look different?
Mark Fiveman: Well, for example, for the last few years the first thing I’d do in the morning was sit down at my computer to catch up on Facebook, news, emails, etc. which gets me into a mentally-focused, detail-oriented space right off the bat.
This morning, I did something different: I decided I was going to stay off the computer for the first hour and pay attention to myself. This led to doing some yoga, some emotional introspection and some big-time reviewing of my daily habits. So I think the biggest difference at first will be looking at my daily habits and rituals, so that they support my health and wellbeing. And then fit work inside this new pattern.
Mark Manson: When I read, “I’m going to turn my life inside out,” I immediately thought you meant changing travel patterns, stopping doing consulting work, etc.
Mark Fiveman: Ah, no. I won’t change any of the work I do.
Mark Manson: OK. So do you think you’d just work less? Reprioritize? Would this be more about balancing the two or re-orienting your life and activities?
Mark Fiveman: I’ve never liked the notion of balance because it’s zero-sum game: You give up some of one thing to get more of something else.
As I mentioned earlier, part of what led me to this change is that I’ve become aware of how much I’ve declined in the last year in contrast to when I was doing the Body-Psyche work and was getting younger by most measures. I always attributed that “getting younger” to the fact that I was doing so much healing work that I was so frequently in a healing space myself. But this morning I remembered that during that time, I also did a lot of things deliberately to maintain my own state of wellbeing for myself so that before I ever met with clients, I was already in a particular state of wellbeing.
And to your questions, yes, I’ll reprioritize for sure and maybe work less, but that’s not the point. The point is I’ll work more productively—maybe more or maybe less. And I’ll feel more energized and vital, which I think will lead to spending less time futzing over the computer and feeling stressed and tired from travel and jetlag.
Don’t get me wrong, the last two years have been amazing in so many ways. But they have taken a toll on my health. And it would be a cop-out to attribute it solely to traveling and living in hotels and “getting older.” I think I can live this awesome nomadic lifestyle and build my two businesses and still live in a way that has me be healthy. And preferably getting a bit younger again.
Mark Manson: So what would you do to maintain wellness and keep yourself in that state?
Mark Fiveman: I think the first and most important change will be in my daily habits and rituals.
You’ve probably heard of the big-rocks-first analogy that Steven Covey uses. So, my big rocks would be my daily rituals to support my wellbeing. For example, having the first hour of every day be a time for reconnecting with myself (like this morning) rather than reconnecting with the world (through Facebook, news and emails).
What I actually do will probably vary a lot depending on where I am and what’s available to me in the physical environment, etc.
But what I used to have, and have lost, is the regular practice of being in touch with myself on many levels (mental, physical, emotional and spiritual) and using that self-awareness to discern what’s best for me. I had an experience a couple of nights ago that really drove this home for me: I got a massage and was amazed by all the aches and pains and pulls I noticed. It was all stuff that I would have been aware of and would have dealt with myself just a couple of years ago. Instead, I’ve just let them build and build without any awareness of them. I mean, I was aware that they were there in some vague sense; I knew I was in a lot of pain and that I didn’t have much energy. But I was not aware in the specific sense of exploring and attending to the reason they were there and healing my body myself. In fact, I was deliberately ignoring them in an attempt to “succeed” on another level.
Which is exactly what happened: a knee injury I sustained in January still wasn’t healing ten months later. In the past I would have healed myself fairly quickly, but with the go-go-go way I’ve been living my life over the last two years, that injury has persisted for ten months.
Mark Manson: I get it.
Mark Fiveman: Anyway, for now those are my early musings about how I will approach the year ahead. I am definitely going to find out how to take better care of myself while still living, working and traveling/exploring around the world. What my life will actually look like will evolve over time. I’ll keep you posted.
Mark Manson: Sounds great. Good luck!