Artwork by James Victore

Op-Ed: Accepting Less to Have More

We live a screen-dominated life. We work in front of screens, we’re entertained by screens, there are screens in elevators and schools, and we carry screens in our pocket for the times between other screens. We are constantly and conveniently entertained, updated, and connected. Screens have become our closest companion, our friend, and our babysitter.
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The problem is that these new media have made it easier for us to get sidetracked and distracted from the meaningful experiences of our lives. They become addictive and compulsive, and are, as embarrassing as it is to say, designed to be so. Pavlov-like, we check and recheck emails, keep up our online status and waste time with Solitaire and Angry Birds.
Heck, as I write this the cute couple at the next table are paying more attention to their phones than to each other. Do we really need to text while walking? Can you walk your dog and not bring your phone? We have become so obsessed with our tools that we feel lost without them.
These new media have made it easier for us to get sidetracked and distracted from the meaningful experiences of our lives.
There is no longer a time and a place for a phone call. The emails, chats, texts, games, pads, pods, and clouds have become a leash jerking us out of our quiet time. They demand our attention, but limit our focus, leaving us no time for reflection, contemplation, study, or the solitude necessary for deep thought and not just a temporary and shallow retreat.Our brains are being rewired. There is no longer a difference between “urgent” and “important.”  We’re learning new habits and sadly forgetting the instincts we were born with. We hand off our iPhones to toddlers, so that we are relieved from the duty of parenting. Thus our kids never learn to handle boredom. We are led off the path and, worse, we gladly pay monthly for this servitude.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love the tools. Hurrah for the Future! Going backwards is not the answer. The answer is being conscious of the time spent on screens versus the time spent on ourselves. Can you create more time in your life? Time to plan and organize your life? Can you make more time to give to others? The answers are discipline, etiquette, and understanding the importance of time in our lives.Every time I return from vacation I have to ask myself, “Do I work to live or live to work?” Why work? Do we work to make money or to have a life? Or, even better, to make a difference? Are you doing what you love? And why not? For the pursuit of money? Or too busy keeping up with the mortgage or 401K so that you may achieve happiness at some later date? Does your job define who you are, or limit who you are?
The answer is being conscious of the time spent on screens versus the time spent on ourselves.
Financial security is not guaranteed to anyone and real prosperity should be living easily and happily, whether you have dough or not. Beyond being able to provide for your own needs, anything else should be given away freely — it will come back to you ten fold. Give back. Share or donate your things, your time, your energies. If you want wealth in your life, help others achieve it in theirs. I know this level of self-knowledge takes work to achieve. Most of us are too busy or too distracted to do the work.

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Me? My own attempts to have more life in my life are simple. I keep a small, comfortable home. I have always had a live/work studio with low overhead that gives me flexibility to work on projects that I choose and allows access to my family and time off when I need it. My daily schedule allows time for the things I know that I need in my life like study and reflection and exercise. I try to work on projects I find meaningful and make things people won’t throw away. The money is rarely enough, but whose is?There is a lovely idea attributed to Aboriginal society that says, “The more you know, the less you need.” Accepting less means less clutter and meaningless stuff in our lives. Less distractions, less debt, less greed and craving, less servitude to work.Never settle. Never give in. But accept less.


This opinion piece comes from artist/designer James Victore, who has been ignoring the status quo and lighting fires under asses for 20+ years. You can learn more about him in this 99U interview, and follow him @jamesvictore.

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James Victore

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James Victore runs an independent design studio hell-bent on world domination. He is an author, designer, filmmaker and firestarter. James has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and is represented in the permanent collections of museums around the globe. You can buy tickets to his latest live event Take This Job and Love It here.
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