I have a habit of analyzing everything. Call it a hobby, or a side effect of having a blog, constantly worrying that I might just run out of things to say some day. After all, how many different ways can I yell, "Be happy! Do what you want to do! Go to weird places! Wear wool clothing! "? My baseline day is pretty great, but on those occasions where my day just glistens with perfection, I analyze it and try to figure out why.
And although balance isn't a characteristic many people would attribute to my life, oddly enough, I've found that my best days have a balance of different elements to them. These elements may be unique to me, but they're so fundamental that I think they must be universal.
Getting Stuff Done
I've never been one to do homework, yet six months ago, talking to my Japanese teacher, I was horrified to hear myself ask for more homework. She obliged, of course. When I do most of my homework, she assigns me the same amount for the next week. When I finish it all, she gives me even more. I've been in a multi-week streak of finishing it all, so I'm now being assigned entire chapters of the workbook, covering topics I've never learned about.
This afternoon I blasted through the mountain of homework dumped on me, and it felt great. Even better, I have a sunny window, a pot of good tea, and a todo list the size of my forearm. Doing hard work and making progress isn't enough to have a perfect day, but it's a necessary counterpart to the more traditionally fun parts of el dia perfecto.
A caveat: the work has to be meaningful. It has to exercise your mind, not numb it.
"Social Expansion" is the nerdiest possible way of phrasing the least nerdy part of the perfect day, but I suppose that's what you can expect from someone who studied pickup for so long. I say social expansion, because socializing isn't enough-- it's meeting new people or taking relationships to the next level (turning acquaintances into friends, for example) that leaves your mind buzzing as you try to fall asleep at the end of the day.
This effect is so strong, that even as a clinical introvert earlier in my life, I'd be excited after having met new people, even though I raised every self-imposed barrier to meeting them that I possibly could. You can only really express yourself in the company of others, and there's no more interesting puzzle than an unknown mind, shaped through years of life completely different than your own.
Producing and socializing are bonanzas for the mind, but they leave your body sitting on the bench. That's not what the body is for, so the perfect day requires that you push your body a little bit. You don't have to lift weights for an hour-- just running around the block a few times is enough to indulge your body and feel the world under your feet and against your face. I often forget how important this is, but am easily reminded every time I climb something or start running for no reason.
When Tim Ferriss' new book, Four Hour Body, came out, I read it cover to cover and didn't really commit to implementing any of it. I didn't do the hard work of working out, but the idea of eating garbage once a week seemed appealing, so I began implementing that.
Eating the forbidden fruit (or, cake and pizza, more accurately) wasn't nearly as good as I expected. In fact, I'm not sure I'd even use the word "good" to describe it. Minutes of fleeting flavor-inspired fun were nearly forgotten by the time I went to bed. I didn't necessarily feel bad about eating empty food, but it didn't exactly invigorate me either.
On the other hand, I made a simple meal for myself yesterday. In one pot, I combined some red lentils, black quinoa, fresh rainbow chard and broccoli from the farmer's market, tempeh, and some spices. It was delicious, and left me with the lingering satisfaction that I'd done something good for myself.
These four elements have a sort of balance to them. Working exhausts the mind in a satisfying way, while expanding socially nourishes it. Physical activity exhausts the body in a satisfying way, while feeding yourself good food nourishes it. It's this balance, mind and body, exhaustion and replenishment, that creates a perfect day.
My challenge is this: try to have a perfect day tomorrow. Use all of the four elements, and let me know how your day was.
A funny ending to a half-finished post I stumbled across when looking for a post to put up today: "This post is pointless and basically just the manifestation of me being an idiot about this and not being able to immediately deal with it."
Sometimes it takes a full day just to be able to enact all four of these things, but it's always worth it!
Enjoyed your comments as well. I see life's balance as triune-always most satisfying when our mind is used (creatively/or whatever), body (worked out until tired) & spirit (we R relational beings-from human interactions to Joy w/R Creator)...the food part is great as I see this as part of a healthy body. Just sent U my first email & enjoying your site!
A thought-provoking post, to be sure; you make some great points! I love the section on Social Expansion - I find that a day spent in solitude is often relaxing, but not very gratifying. But as I apply your criteria to this particular day, I find that I have already accomplished all four; and this day has yet to glisten with perfection. So I wonder if a fifth component should be devoted to negative things that shouldn't happen? Like, for example... make sure you don't get in a useless fight with your mother. Or Make sure to bring your umbrella if it's supposed to rain. Just kidding. But I do think that negative experiences can really tarnish an otherwise great day that meets all four of your criteria. Thanks for your interesting words!
Wow this post seems awfully familiar to me, oh yeah, http://lifestyles365.com/?p=411.
:) Nice job Ty, I'm feeling the cooking and Japanese lessons!
Your photo of that yum looking mushroom and lentil curry and your comment about cooking got me thinking.. Can you share recipees of your vegetarian dishes? I'm vegetarian and would love some ideas on how to cook quick, nutritrious and tasty meals. thanks love your blog!
I love how you defined "Social Expansion". You hit the nail on the head with what makes certain social experiences special.
And my perfect day looks really similar to yours, except I would add:
*Creating Things - whether that be music, writing, or capturing a photo. A day without a little bit of creativity feels like it's missing something.
*Reading - even if it's only for 10 min. Something about reading a good book just nourishes my soul.
*Genuine Connection (probably a subset of Social Expansion) - whether it's with an old friend or the lady ringing up your groceries. Something amazing happens when you break through the outer shield and connect with the real person inside. This'll leave me grinning like an idiot all day.
Tynan, I agree with your points about a perfect day. Despite how cathartic a full day of rest can be, I don't feel satisfied unless I have pushed myself to be productive. It's when I push back the short term feedback (such as "this ice cream tastes good") and focus on a longer term plan (such as "running will do me good") that I feel satisfied.
The other evening I cooked up some of mum's good sheep sausage, sauteed some local mushrooms, a bit of onion and what is called an Anaheim pepper (They hardly ever have anything like this at the grocery and finding one was like finding a gold nugget). Quite tasty! Afterward had a romp with the lads then to bed for a good nights sleeping.
I work to be a perfect writer, a perfect friend, a perfect programmer, a perfect son and brother, a perfect motorcycle rider, and a perfect violinist. I also want to have perfect discipline, be perfect at picking where to focus my energy, and be perfect at things I don't even know how to do, like painting. At the same time, I realize that I will never be perfect at any of these things, even the ones I'm fairly good at. Some I will never be better than terrible at.
I also know that if the path to perfection were symbolized by a yardstick, I wouldn't be more than an inch or two from the start at even my best skills. That's not false modesty-- it's an acknowledgment of the impossibility of actually reaching perfection. It's so far out of reach that even excellence is very far away from it.
If there's no chance of ever reaching perfection, whats the point of striving for it? Goals can be many things-- they can motivate, but they can just as easily demoralize if you're not deliberate in how you use them. I think of goals as a guiding light, drawing me in the right direction.
If the journey is more important than the destination, then making sure one's journey is on the right path is all the more important. Having an impossible goal like perfection not only keeps you on the right path, but it focuses you on the journey. You can't look for shortcuts, arguing that the ends will justify the means, because there is no end. Instead, you see every decision in the harsh light of perfection, and are nudged towards the best path. Being imperfect, I make many mistakes and accidentally get sidetracked, but even so I move slowly in the right direction.
This is Part IV of IV in my Arbitrary Disciplines series.
That title is totally over the top, but I won't say its message is inaccurate. About two months ago - the same time when I started brainstorming to come up with coping mechanisms - I realized that every single time I got on Facebook my mood plummeted. So I deactivated it. (Honestly, I didn't realize you could delete it, but it really hasn't even been remotely a temptation.)
First, I began feeling acutely removed from everyone I loved several times a day. I would see pictures and exciting college updates and amazing, intellectual events - and I'd be reminded of what my life no longer is. I've spent the past four years living in New England. And now I'm back down south where I haven't spent any significant time in five years. That's a huge cultural transition. Not to mention the fact that I am finished with school and moving into one of the toughest times in one's life, i.e. early adulthood, where everything is unstable. I was (and am) ready to build a new life. Getting rid of Facebook was part of building the scaffolding for my new life. Pare down, build up.
Second, I hated seeing other people succeed. I would scan statuses and see "Yay! I got a job at Harvard/Google/Amazon/Some-Incredible-Overseas-Company! My life is so much better than yours!" Maybe it didn't say that last part, but that's what my brain decided every time I scrolled past another friend's "good" news. It was making me bitter and hardened. Sure, it still hurts sometimes when I hear about friends getting great opportunities because I have been trying so hard for so long to find a position. But I don't have to subject myself to angst fourteen times a day. Hearing it once a week or so is manageable. And I can be happy for them because I've been spending all that time I was on Facebook to craft my own life.