Shifting From Intellectual Back To Experiential Life
The first 40 years of my life were experiential, dominated by doing, innovating, building and learning on the job; but when I became ill, the focus shifted to an intellectual life, one dominated by reading, strategizing, planning, coaching, reviewing. It’s not as much fun!
The challenge is that at work an experiential life comes with some baggage, the competition for ideas, the organisational politics and the general pressure to deliver short term progress is completely inconsistent with the constraints that I’ve ‘chosen’ to live within. This means that I need to adjust my life outside of work, and fortunately I have plenty of time to do it, but for some reason I’ve not done a very good job of it so far.
An experiential life requires more effort, it’s harder than the passive intellectual life that it’s been all too easy for me to default to living. It’s easy to ‘passively’ read from the the internet’s fire hose each day, to watch the endless seasons of TV shows, to idly walk the same coastal paths while listening to the same podcasts. At the same time my art kit gathers dust, the books that will challenge me outside my comfort zone sit on the shelves, 99% of the UK’s coastline remains a mystery to me as do most of the Lake Districts fells and lakes.
The shift I’m looking for isn’t from habit to novelty though, I’m not suddenly embarking on a quest to travel the world; what I’m looking for is to spend more time actively experiencing the world around me, not just in a mindful way either, in an active way that requires me to engage in creative activities, in building and improving things. I need to move sufficiently outside my comfort zone that I’m open to more options in life, not so habit bound.
Here are a few examples of changes that I’m making:
- At the beginning of the year I planned out my non-fiction reading list and filled it with a wide range of books that I wouldn’t normally read, books designed to expand my horizons, to introduce me to whole genres so far unexplored
- I’ve committed to growing a lot more of my own food, which means learning much more about intensive gardening and the joys of tending it daily
- I’m still spending 6 weeks on holiday in Filey, but I’ve reserved many weeks for opportunistic day trips and overnight breaks in B&B’s to new places. For some of these trips I’m going to leave my car behind
- I’m learning to travel light, in stark contrast to my tendency to travel with everything but the kitchen sink. I’ve already done two trial runs with just a small rucksack (albeit with a car)
- Even though I love the two hours I spend in St Annes Caffe Nero most mornings, I’m mixing it up a bit by spending time at any of the many other ‘morning cafes’. More variety makes me appreciate what I have on the doorstep even more, but it also breaks a solid habit, making me think more consciously about my plan for the day
- I’m changing my diet for the better, introducing ‘super-foods’ (veg, nuts, seeds, organ meats) that I’ve disliked for 50 years and gradually adjusting to them, maybe even enjoying some of them!
- I’m spending more time outdoors, more time moving, more quality time with people
- When I do watch TV we are doing it more as a family, making it into an event. When I watch on my own I’m also riding my exercise bike, so at least I’m moving
I’ve got a lot more ideas to pursue, but I need to be careful with my reserves of energy and willpower, my health challenges consume most of what’s available, I have a very limited supply available for other changes.
I’m writing this post in Caffe Nero Lytham, I walked for an hour to get here this morning on a glorious sunny spring day. I could have stayed in bed for an extra hour and gone to the local in St Annes, but in the spirit of this post I decided to opt for variety and the wonderful experience of a crisp spring Sunday morning walk. I really wanted to go hiking in the Lakes, but I’m just recovering from a 6 week flare and need to balance my enthusiasm against the risk of triggering a relapse. Today’s photo was taken in Scarborough last year, I will be back there in a few weeks, enjoying the perfect bays and the traditional seaside vibe.