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An Empty Jar of Substance

It’s interesting how life can pull all of the creativity out of your body. You can get so consumed with the day to day that you simply lose track of YOU. Tasks at work add up and consume your being both mentally and physically. It gets to a point of mental exhaustion where your small amount of free time in the day, is usually spent sitting on the couch watching mindless television or catching up on chores. What happens when you constantly fill your day with substance? You start losing the time to think through your thoughts on life and goals of being. You stop being a life strategist, and soon become someone that is putting out fires. Michael Easter published an article in 2021 called, “Why Creativity is tanking”. He writes that going back to the 1950’s, we have seen a decrease in creativity. He actually calls it a creativity crisis. Our hurried, over-scheduled lives, mixed with an increased amount of time using electronic devices, has reduced the time that someone has to be creative. What do we do when we get bored? We pick up our phone and look for a source of entertainment. The time we used to spend imagining and our inner voice rambling through the day has been overtaken by reduced free time. Research has shown that boredom actually increases creativity in a person. In this timeframe where you are free to think through ideas, it allows your mind to wander. This mind wandering actually activates an area of the brain, that helps us be more creative with the outside world. Allowing yourself free time to sit and think, or go on a long walk alone, can actually be very beneficial to your well being. In the business world, there are usually two types of managers. A game manager, that will go through the day to day motions of running a business. Consistent in their communication, the ability to move pieces around to fill the necessary holes and for the most part keep the business moving. They will get lost in the day to day work and forget to think through a long term strategy. Then you have the strategist, the person that is taking the time to think through the big picture of a problem. They are always looking towards latest trends in the business and evolving where necessary. Taking the time to analyze what’s in front of them. I remember when I wasn’t in a management position, I would I always question what these people were doing. Why are they just sitting back and thinking for hours? There is so much work to be done! As I’ve moved on in my career I realize the importance of taking the time to sit back and think through the big picture. Coming up with a strategy. A strategist takes the time to think through what happens next. There are far less of these people in business. There always needs to be a balance. How much time do you take each week to focus on your life strategy? Honest time where you have nothing going on and just time to put words on paper? Think of how much of our time gets consumed by social media or television. The first step is right there. Do you find yourself working all day and then coming home to sit in front of the television or with your cell phone on tik tok or Instagram? Embrace the blank space in your life. This is the time for you to think through what’s working, not working for you as a person. My version of this usually involves taking a hike. There is something about walking through nature and enjoying your surroundings that gets your creative juices flowing. A good 4-6 mile hike away from cell service always brings light onto ideas. Early morning hikes always seem so different to me than in the afternoon. Partly, because it is still a bit dark out and there is a sense of control lost as you maneuver a bit in the early morning light, but also because you get the world to yourself. Only a small amount of humans in this world wake up early enough to watch the sun as it rises over the horizon. People just love to sleep. I feel like I always weigh my options in the early morning with this. Usually my sleep will get trumped by my willingness to enjoy the day. As my foot takes it’s first step out of my car door, I’m always reassured by my decision. The crisp morning area does nothing to slow my anticipation down as I look to the trail ahead.

Photographer: Chris Hetrick.

Today I woke up early, grabbed a coffee and then packed a backpack. I headed out to a local park that I hadn’t been to before. I parked my car on a side street because it didn’t open for parking until 8am. As I heard the swish of my backpack and feet as they grazed the dirt below me, my mind started firing on all cylinders. Each step felt momentous in a way. Like light bulbs were bursting. I forgot how much I enjoyed being in nature and having nothing to do. I passed river creeks, watched blue jays and ducks as they crossed my pathway. All enjoying the early morning light with no human disturbance. Sometimes following paths that lead nowhere, just to see what beauty nature has given us and left untouched. Crossing back onto my main path, I acknowledged a few hikers as they passed. People are usually friendly, but sometimes timid in the early morning as they are unsure what a stranger will bring into their lives. I felt my heart rate increase dramatically as a I made my way up steep paths. Pausing at times to catch a breath. I guess it had been a while since I’ve been hiking. The journey finally came to its peak, figuratively and literally. I made my way up to the top of the rock and looked down at San Jose below. Being the only person on top at the time gave me a rare perspective of silence. All around me was nature embracing my mind. Birds soaring across the sky gracefully. The light peaking over the hills as it started to come into existence. Slight beads of sweat across my arms and forehead. You know that feeling of pride when you accomplish something? I felt on top of it all, I felt whole again. I stayed up top for a bit to enjoy the view, before deciding to make my way back down the trail. I passed more hikers along the way than I did on the way up. Each with their own mental journey in mind I’m sure. Hopefully they understood the significance of the trek in their lives. I’m not sure if everyone does though. Whether it’s a hike through the woods, or time looking out the window at the world around you, you must take time to allow your mind to wander. Our days get filled with substance quickly and it becomes so hard to think clearly about life. Days become months, months become years. Before you know it, you’re headed down a long path into the dark and you forget who you are as a person. It’s ok to take time for yourself and just think. Be that awkward person at the table staring off into the abyss. Be that person walking down the street talking through life to yourself. Don’t feel a need to constantly fill your day with something. Your future self will thank you. You’d be surprised at how much you find about who you truly are, when you’re left alone to ponder the world.

Author: Chris Hetrick.

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May 08, 2022

Such a great reminder to put strategy time in EVERY day. 🙏

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