I used to imagine how wonderful the world would be if everybody simply did what they loved without concern for money. The idea was that we would barter our work. Need a house? Get in touch with the guy who loves building houses. Need a new dress? Get in touch with the woman who loves making clothes. And so on. This vision was guided by faith in the diversity of humanity – that there were enough people out there who loved to do all the different things that would need to get done, in order for our societies to function. People who loved to balance accounts, people who loved paperwork, people who loved to clean etc.
In this vision, the exchange of services would not necessarily be linear. I would not have to do something for you just because you did something for me. After all, you might not need what I have to offer but there would be somebody else out there who did. Again, faith in the diversity of humanity in that, at the end of the day, the supplies would match the demands.
Ideal come true
Imagine my excitement when, a few weeks ago, I heard about timebanking. In brief, people (and organisations, facilities etc.) 'deposit' their time by giving help and support to others. They can then 'withdraw' time when they themselves need something. The beauty is that, the different skills, resources and talents of a community are effectively pooled and the interaction and collective action facilitates and fosters community engagement and all the benefits that come with that. A pioneering UK organisation, Spice, has had great success with the model and it has me thinking about the possibility of transferring some of these ideas to African contexts.
Shiny, glittery, precious time
One amazing thing about timebanking is that, those involved are putting a premium on what I consider to be one of our most valuable resources – time. Our time is all we have and yet we so often squander it as if it exists in constant supply! As if it is so abundant as to be relatively worthless. We spend it doing things that bring us no joy; we spend it doing things that take away our joy and; we spend it being knocked about by the consequences of our mindlessness.
I've been guilty of this myself: always busy, doing a million things, responding to every kind of request, coming in from every direction and generally steering off the course of where I want to go. Exhausted, I've often longed for evenings spent in front of the TV, under a flimsy illusion of that comatose activity equating relaxation. Overextending myself on the one hand and feeling that "there aren't enough hours in the day" and then, on the other hand, wasting those very hours. It's quite insane and it shows: feeling stressed out, feeling imbalanced, feeling unproductive and feeling unsatisfied.
The time of reckoning
And then there is the moment when it all comes to a head and a force intervenes (the universe, God or whatever you believe in). For some it is in the guise of an illness or injury that forces them to slow down, or stop, and thus gives them the time and space to reflect on the course their lives are taking. For others it is a major project gone wrong, an exceptionally nightmarish client or an investment gone sour. For still others, it's feeling overwhelmed and out of control. It can even be as extreme as seemingly losing everything that you hold dear.
Whatever it is for you, it's likely to be disconcerting, frightening and to be hard to even consider that it is actually an opportunity for good things to happen. That it is the possibility of a turning point towards a more positive experience, rather than merely the dark moment it initially appears to be. That in fact, you are being given the chance to live a more mindful, purposeful, passionate, joyous and enriching life!
I guess many of us miss, distrust or ignore the signs and keep on robbing ourselves of our own precious time. We are lucky however, that the signs are persistent and that they will most likely appear throughout our days. That means endless opportunities to make better decisions and start living the lives we want. If we invest time into imagining what those lives can be, we may already be half way there.
Do what you love
Do what you love. I've always appreciated this advice and in the past year and a half, I've seen, firsthand, the results in action! It's not without its challenges – it definitely means some readjustments to the life you may have been accustomed to, e.g. financial expectations, the security of being employed, conventional ways of working etc. However, and I've probably already bored many with this assertion, the rewards more than make up for any teething period trials. And I say this while not yet clear of the latter! The freedom and control over your own time give you the space to bring into creation the things you've dreamt of.
While this world is still governed by the exchange of goods and services for money, I observe many more people providing goods and services out of love rather than purely for money. I feel it's a significant step. With organisations such as Spice, who are keeping their eyes on the most rewarding prize – community and essentially, love – I'm hopeful that some version of my original vision is actually possible. Half way there?
There's a lot of inspiration out there to help you reclaim your time, and your life! Here's some that I've found particularly useful lately:
- "What happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking and Sacred Space" Scott Belsky, author of Making Ideas Happen
- Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction, an book by Leo Babauta (download the free and premium versions on focusmanifesto.com)