" You have the sole custody of your life. Who you are today is not who you have to be tomorrow. Embrace the possibility of transformation"
What is living deliberately? No doubt there are as many answers to that question as there are people living on this earth. So I can only answer for myself. To me living deliberately involves some introspection - pausing to examine my life. I do this in order to gain clarity regarding how I want to live, both in the moment, and in the future. Periods of introspection also help me clarify both my values and the principles I would like to see active in my life. Back in the 1990's writing one's own personal mission statement became fashionable. I have kept one since then, and update it every so often as life's changing seasons cause me to change my values. And implicit in my trying to live deliberately is the development of my own self-efficacy.
Living deliberately is also a personal declaration of independence. It is about using my critical mental faculties to determine whether something I am being told or something I am being offered is really in my best interests.
I also think that in the hurly-burly of everyday life, we can get caught up in the rat race. Scurrying through our daily grind like a rat moving through a maze, just to get to the finish of another day. This thought came to mind recently when reading about some experiments conducted on rats a few decades ago. In 1981 psychologist Bruce Alexander, to test his hypothesis that societal causes are a more powerful factor in addiction than was at that time recognised, conducted a study with two groups of rats. For one group he created "Rat Park" a rodent paradise filled with all the things rats enjoy. Things like cans to snooze in, wheels to run on, platforms for climbing and other rats for company. The second group were kept in the normal cages rats in laboratories were kept in. These cages though open at the front had metal sides which prevented the rats for seeing each other. In the experiment both groups were offered a choice of water laced with morphine, or plain water. Reportedly there were relatively few incidences of the rat park residents choosing the drug laced water, whilst caged rats bombed themselves out on it. What Bruce Alexander and his colleagues discovered was that the morphine became irresistible when normal social existence was destroyed.
Reading this about the reactions of the caged rats got me thinking about the times I felt I was living in a cage; unable to pursue the type of life my soul craved. Living instead a kind of 9 to 5 ebbing away of my spirit. However unlike the caged rats I get to choose how I live my life and what attitudes l bring to bear on my life. I know I can be an agent for change in my own life. Nevertheless at times I faced circumstances that I would rather not have faced. I have worked in jobs I have found unfulfilling. I have worked in jobs where I was working 12 hours a day and being paid for 8. I wasn't really living in a cage, though it may have felt that way. I was free to leave. Still, I have chosen to stay in different jobs that did not fulfill me because I needed to eat and pay my bills. This was not something done to me it was a situation of my own making. During my second act I want to choose another way. I want to choose a life with more meaning, and that is why I am trying to live deliberately. So that I will stop needing to put myself in a cage.
I don't think I am alone here. What keeps us in the cage? The lack of ability to control or manage our own spending (not that I am a spendthrift)? Having to rely on organisations and businesses to meet our every need? Not knowing how to make a better way for ourselves? It is my hope that by living deliberately I can change what I am doing.
One change is to learn how to thrive through thrift. Another is to live more simply.
Yet, I do think in a globalised consumer society a lot of our options for meaningful and simple living remain hidden. Today society emphasises the need to grow the economy as if that is the only thing that matters. Our attention is constantly kept on things make us feel like we need to earn more money to get more stuff.
But does getting and spending make our life meaningful, or put us in the cage? I can't answer that question for anyone else. However for me, getting and spending is largely responsible for putting me in the cage and keeping me there. How can I get out? I don't know for sure. That is in part, what this blog is for…to help me escape from the cage. But I think choosing deliberate living over consumerism is a start. Earning and keeping rather than getting and spending sounds like another step in the journey. "Just say no," to stuff I don't need. When I do need something, I can avoid being persuaded by advertising and consider whether I can produce something to meet the need myself. If I can't meet the need myself, I can consider other options like buying second hand in order to save resources - the planets and mine. Perhaps bartering or using a time-bank could fill the need.
So I included the words 'living deliberately' in my banner as a "memo to self", to remind me that during my second act I want to be living my life with intention, not on automatic pilot. To work towards living consciously and unhurriedly. To try and live wisely (although that seems like an high benchmark to set myself), and to learn to husband my resources well, and to develop a capacity for forehandedness. I believe and hope that living deliberately will help me get out of the cage.