What’s the Rush?

I often get emails and message invites from well-meaning friends about some web event or another happening that week, which they think I should attend. While I am grateful to them for thinking of me, attending these events in the same week is not possible for me for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I plan my week in advance.

Even if it were possible for me to attend these events in that week, it always feels somewhat rushed to me, simply because I hadn’t planned on it—I’m not a fan of surprises—and besides, I am already committed to doing other things during the week.

It may also be the case that an event is scheduled during my discretionary time, but just because I am “available” doesn’t mean I have enough reason to attend. In fact, that discretionary time is as important to me (if not more so) as the time I have consciously decided to do something with.

When I do sign up for one of these webinars, I rarely watch them live, if ever. I almost always end up watching the recording at some later date—often days or weeks beyond the actual event—whenever it’s convenient to me. In fact, when they send me these things, I often ask my friends if each event is going to be recorded. This of course presumes that a given event interests me in the first place.

That said, there are maybe times when I REALLY want to attend an event live, but I won’t sign up because it’s in a different time zone, and I prefer getting a good night’s sleep rather than attending something in the middle of the night, which might otherwise screw up my morning after.

All that said, if and when we discover an event that is interesting enough for us, we will find a way to attend it, whether it’s live or later.

When it comes to the less compelling events however, we may sign up half-heartedly without fully committing to them. We might even schedule them in our calendars, only to wait till the last minute to decide whether we actually want to attend. Rather than thinking harder about these events when we first encounter them, we end up making half a decision without really knowing how much we care. Other times, if something better comes along, we feel it’s totally okay to skip the event, thereby questioning our commitment to sign up in the first place.

When I attended a monthly creative event in my hometown, I asked the organizers a couple of times about the number of people who actually attended versus those who signed up but never showed. While the latter group was a small one, it was surprising to find that a number of them didn’t end up releasing their tickets, thereby wasting spots that might have been otherwise filled by those who truly wanted to go. Yes, emergencies can and do happen, but it’s unlikely that most of the no-shows were in that category, nor would it have been a good reason to hold onto their tickets.

Of course, all of this goes beyond simply attending events at our convenience. For instance, we are happy to turn on our television and passively watch whatever is on. If we know there is a particular TV show or movie that is going to be aired, we might move around things in our schedule to make room for it, but that often seems less to be the case (save for live sporting events).

In any case, the current trend is towards subscription pricing and online streaming, where we can watch pretty much anything we want at our own convenience. It’s about not doing things on the world’s schedule, but instead on our own.

I think this idea of doing things at our convenience goes for a toss for most of us. Too often, we are quite happy to accommodate others (at our expense) or give away our time to things without consciously thinking about it. We may be wise about using our money, but when it comes to using our time, most of us aren’t half as intentional, even though the time we have is a far more valuable resource than money. We can always make another buck, but we can’t create another minute.

While it’s easy for us to feel attracted by what’s new and shiny, we ought to have the self discipline to remain committed to what we are already doing. For instance, we don’t have to play a new game the day of its release if we are already committed to playing another game—or perhaps we’re committed to doing something else in our discretionary time right now, like learning about photography. Of course, you can always add the game to your “Play Later” list and get around to it in due time.

So what if we end up playing Breath of the Wild a year or two after its release? It doesn’t make the game any less great—but this way, we ensure we are giving the time the game deserves without feeling rushed.

The same goes for watching a movie, reading a book, or listening to new music. You already have a list of things you want to watch, read, listen and do at your own pace, without feeling rushed. Sure, a friend might occasionally recommend you a book or movie, but you can always add it to your list without feeling the need to read or watch right now. Having this information stored somewhere removes the fear of “losing out”. I find this approach to be a much more proactive and intentional way to live and to be. This is not to say that you don’t do something when others recommend things to you, but let that be the exception than the rule. This idea isn’t set in stone.

I have an endless number of books, films, music, and games that I’d like to read, watch, listen, and play, but that doesn’t overwhelm me for any reason. For instance, I have over 600 films in my Watchlist (and counting). I don’t feel like I am missing out at all. When I come across a film I might want to check out, I simply add it to that list.

On average, I might watch a film a week, but in no way am I looking to get that Watchlist down to zero anytime soon. I have no delusions about it, and that’s not the point anyway. I am perfectly okay with eating the elephant one bite at a time. I also don’t feel regret if I don’t end up watching all the films in my list.

But that’s the thing: You can’t do it all (and that’s okay). There will always be more to do/watch/listen/read/play than we can possibly experience. I don’t think that’s the right mindset to deal with this.

Similarly, we can’t let others rush us. We do things when it’s convenient for us. Just because someone else is doing something right now, isn’t enough of a reason for you to also do it. There will always be more interesting things to do than we can possibly experience, but ultimately, it’s in our hands to live a more proactive life.

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