Once upon a time, the world was divided into neat little boxes. Work was work. Home was home. Being with your children at a their little league game meant you were cheering on the team.
But then -- almost overnight -- our lives changed. The walls came down. We were all connected, and those connections are engaging and important. We have in the palm of our hands the power to be in constant contact with our friends, our loved ones, our pursuits and our passions.
It is by any measure a magical moment in the history of the word.
And yet -- this abundance of connectivity has created a conundrum. It's what author and psychologist Barry Schwartz calls the paradox of choice. Simply put -- when we have too many options, too much input -- we find ourselves overwhelmed with abundance. Young people called it FOMO, fear of missing out. And that fear leaves us often frozen in a blizzard of choice, unable to manage the volume of unfiltered input.
We're all there. And the flow of raw data and connections only going to increase.
So, how can we take control of this new normal?
The answer is adopting a new paradigm, a curated life.
So here's some tools to dive deep into a human-first philosophy that makes us more centered, more connected, more evolved -- and more in control.
When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening. I will never understand the silent dying of the green pie-apple tree if I do not slow down and listen to what the Spirit is telling me, telling me of the death of trees, the death of planets, of people, and what all these deaths mean in the light of love of the Creator, who brought them all into being, who brought them all into being, who brought me into being, and you. -- Madeline L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
The decision to live a curated life isn't a decision to be made lightly. In fact, the tradeoffs have the potential to make you antisocial, out of touch, and operating outside the day to day norms that are make you a social creature. The decision to be tuned-out, digitally quiet, or simply off the grid won't come without some complicated tradeoffs.
Here's a five-point plan to embrace your curated life, and shift from being controlled by the speed of social connectedness to being in control.
- Take a personal 'rhythm' inventory.
- Right size your tools to your life
- Filter your friends
- Get offline and explore real world experiences
- You are what you Tweet and eat
1. Take a personal 'rhythm' inventory.
As yourself the following questions (answer 1 - 5)
Are you a morning person (1) or a night owl? (5)
Are you a multi-tasker (1) or a 'fierce focus' person? (5)
Are you an extrovert (1) introvert (5)
Would you rather talk face to face (1) or text (5)
Do you like small groups (1) or large gatherings (5)
Are you a numbers person (1) or a words person (5)
Do you like fitting in (1) or standing out (5)
There's no good score, or bad score. The idea is to get an honest appraisal of how you want to set your rhythm in the world, and not let devices or content drive how you live your life.
2. Right size your tools to your life
The truth is, we're all trying the ever evolving tools that are being shared with us in a dazzling array of often 'free' choices. But if we're going to curate our life, the first place to start is with our devices. Open your phone, look at each and every app you have -- and delete 2/3's of them. You can do it. The truth is, most of them aren't being used. Be harsh and honest. You can always add it back later if you miss it (hint: you won't). Then do the same thing with your tablet, your desktop computer, your television OTT box, and any other piece of software that is causing you distraction, aggravation or angst.
3. Filter your friends
Ok, that sounds harsh -- but take a moment. On Facebook, the mother of all un-curated experiences, you have friends who overshare. Don't unfriend them, you still want to keep them in your world. Just dial down the noise. Here's link to how to do that I wrote a while back. The tools have changed a bit - but the basic effort is the same. It's the little down arrow to the right of every post. Try it.
4. Get offline and explore real world experiences
When Scott Heiferman founded Meetup it was with a simple message, "get offline." Meetup was founded in the days after 9/11, and Scott was taken with just how different New York was when neighbors and friends came out of their apartments and spent time together. Today meetup is the largest 'in-person' social network in the world. Meetup has almost 20 million members, and half a million events per month.
Amanda Palmer, the musician and former lead singer of The Dresden Dolls, gave a world changing talk at TED a few years back. She told the audience that musicians and artists need to ask their fans to support them, and she said that fans love connecting with artist and becoming part of their world. The talk was amazing. Watch it HERE. And then, think about all the ways you can connect in a non-digital way with artists, creators, innovators, dreamers.
So here's a simple ask to engage in a Curated Life. Go to a concert. Don't watch it online, buy a ticket and go be in the audience. Go to Meetup.com, type in something you're passionate about -- a hobby, an interest, a game you like to play, a dog breed you love. Don't make it a work thing, you can always do that. This is about connecting -- in a real world way -- with people. Find a meetup. Attend. Rinse, repeat. Don't be discouraged if you don't like your first one -- meet-ups aren't always a perfect fit. But if it's an hour of your life, exploring your world -- how can you go wrong?
5. You are what you Tweet and eat
There's a growing buzz around the word "mindfulness." As described by Psychology Today
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
Arianna Huffington wrote a book about the emerging mindfulness movement and her emerging understanding of focusing your attention to real world experiences. Her book is called Thrive.
Most of your life you'll spend engaged -- consuming information, ideas, food, art. Make those decisions actively. Don't just watch what's on. Watch what you love. And ask friends whose taste and styles you like what they LOVE. People love sharing -- and if someone shares a recommendation with you that you enjoyed, tell them. That kind of person to person connection is powerful, meaningful, and emotionally satisfying. At the same time -- share carefully. Don't just click the 'like' button, and carelessly retweet. Instead comment, share, and engage. Mindful creation and consumption of social media makes you a better friend, helps de-clutter the world, and will lead the way for your friends and followers to do the same.
We're living in a time of digital abundance, which is wonderful. It promises to give us a new way to explore, connect, share, and learn. But it needs to be harnessed to make your life better, otherwise it threatens to turn is into hamsters in a wheel of information. So, embrace The Curated Life, and share with me the tools and techniques you've found that give you the ability to engage meaningfully in the world around you. I'd like to hear what works for you.
Steven Rosenbaum is serial entrepreneur, author, and filmmaker. His latest book, Curate This! is in print and ebook on Amazon.com. He is the CEO of Waywire.com (enterprise.waywire.com)