Don’t Build Your Own Boxes

 

I’m an adventurer! A vagabond! A nomad with nothing to lose but so much to gain! I live for thrills and am only bored when I’m not defying death, taming lions, eating fire, etc etc etc.

Sometimes this is true, but most of the time it’s not. I enjoy taking risks, but not the kind that many thrill-seekers obsess over.

I went skydiving once. It was a lot of fun, but it’s not something I’ll do again any time soon. Why would I? It was a solid experience, but the adrenaline alone isn’t enough to keep me coming back. Honestly I get a lot more of a thrill from taking business risks. Social risks.

The knowledge that I’ve created something valuable or allowed someone to see another facet of the world or successfully challenged myself (whether the result is a failure or a success) is much more enticing to me than jumping from reaaalllly high up.

And it’s with this in mind that I find myself here in a coffee shop in Queenstown while my friend Mark and my sister Katie spend the day white water rafting and bungee jumping.

The Tradeoff

I actually spent a long time last night thinking this over, because a big part of my philosophy is to say yes to opportunities when they arise (which is what led to the skydiving experience several weeks ago).

There were many things conspiring in favor of the decision I made, however. One is that my sister came into town about 10 days ago, so I’ve been in the near-constant company of someone else for a lot longer than I have for the better part of a year. Another is that my sister is a VERY different person than I am when it comes to worldview, personal philosophy, travel style and just about everything else. She’s also my older sister, so she has an ingrained need to give a lot of (well-meaning but not-always-applicable) advice.

Another major bullet-point is that I’ve got about 10 days worth of emails to answer, projects to work on, meetings to attend, and on and on. I’ve been able to pick off the little tasks in between shopping trips and day trips to the New Zealand countryside, but anything that would take longer than a few minutes has been left to attract dust.

Last was the realization that I was stressed, something that I haven’t been in a long time. The combination of the above factors, plus a last-minute speaking opportunity all conspired to droop my default smile into a wistful horizontal line.

And there I was, about to overtax myself further and worsen my mood because of a rule I had set for myself.

There’s a valuable lesson here, for myself and for anyone else who holds themselves to high standards, and it is to not fall prey to dogmatism EVEN IF THE IDEA IS YOUR OWN.

There are exceptions to every rule, and as nice as it would have been to cross white water rafting and bungee jumping off my list of extreme things that people always ask if I’ve done, it would have been foolish of me to spend my day doing something I didn’t feel up to – worsening my mood and potentially my health – just because I told myself I would.

Don’t leave the world’s boxes behind just to crawl inside of one you’ve built yourself.

41 comments

  1. I can totally relate to you hear Colin.

    For me in in high school, when I was coming out of my shell, it was hard for me to balance pushing myself out of my comfort zone with not putting myself in such an uncomfortable position that I don’t ever push myself again.

    Saying yes, and being open to new things is a great way to live now that I’ve been trying it, but there is also a lot of value in “doing you” and taking care of your own needs.

  2. I can totally relate to you hear Colin.

    For me in in high school, when I was coming out of my shell, it was hard for me to balance pushing myself out of my comfort zone with not putting myself in such an uncomfortable position that I don’t ever push myself again.

    Saying yes, and being open to new things is a great way to live now that I’ve been trying it, but there is also a lot of value in “doing you” and taking care of your own needs.

  3. I can totally relate to you hear Colin.

    For me in in high school, when I was coming out of my shell, it was hard for me to balance pushing myself out of my comfort zone with not putting myself in such an uncomfortable position that I don’t ever push myself again.

    Saying yes, and being open to new things is a great way to live now that I’ve been trying it, but there is also a lot of value in “doing you” and taking care of your own needs.

  4. You’re a creator Colin — I can relate to you, when I’m invited to go paintballing, surfing, hiking, riving tubing, etc…I have to have the feeling knowing I put in the work for my projects in order to play.

  5. You’re a creator Colin — I can relate to you, when I’m invited to go paintballing, surfing, hiking, riving tubing, etc…I have to have the feeling knowing I put in the work for my projects in order to play.

  6. You’re a creator Colin — I can relate to you, when I’m invited to go paintballing, surfing, hiking, riving tubing, etc…I have to have the feeling knowing I put in the work for my projects in order to play.

  7. Recently I’ve been taking quite a bit of me time. I’m usually up for anything, but it was starting to take a toll on my work and income. I spent so much time helping people out with their opportunities that it was starting to build up my stress level that I wasn’t getting enough done.
    I suppose this all just comes down to the age old work/life balance, and as exciting as a prospect may be, taking time out to sort your own head out is invaluable.

  8. Recently I’ve been taking quite a bit of me time. I’m usually up for anything, but it was starting to take a toll on my work and income. I spent so much time helping people out with their opportunities that it was starting to build up my stress level that I wasn’t getting enough done.
    I suppose this all just comes down to the age old work/life balance, and as exciting as a prospect may be, taking time out to sort your own head out is invaluable.

  9. Recently I’ve been taking quite a bit of me time. I’m usually up for anything, but it was starting to take a toll on my work and income. I spent so much time helping people out with their opportunities that it was starting to build up my stress level that I wasn’t getting enough done.
    I suppose this all just comes down to the age old work/life balance, and as exciting as a prospect may be, taking time out to sort your own head out is invaluable.

  10. People are capable of so much more than they realise. It’s the boxes that we make and society makes that hold us back. Unfortunately these boxes can be difficult to spot. Well done and thank you for pointing out to us the danger they pose.

  11. People are capable of so much more than they realise. It’s the boxes that we make and society makes that hold us back. Unfortunately these boxes can be difficult to spot. Well done and thank you for pointing out to us the danger they pose.

  12. People are capable of so much more than they realise. It’s the boxes that we make and society makes that hold us back. Unfortunately these boxes can be difficult to spot. Well done and thank you for pointing out to us the danger they pose.

  13. Well put, Colin. I agree we needn’t get caught up in following rules. In fact I wrote a blog post about that recently called “Rules are for Lazy People”.

    Obviously the title was meant to be provocative but the point of the post was that rules are made to save us mental energy. But sometimes we’ve got to be courageous enough to undertake the mental energy necessary to reevaluate our rules and decide if they’re really applicable in our current situation.

    I’m glad you did, and that you weren’t artificially constrained by your self-imposed rule.

  14. Well put, Colin. I agree we needn’t get caught up in following rules. In fact I wrote a blog post about that recently called “Rules are for Lazy People”.

    Obviously the title was meant to be provocative but the point of the post was that rules are made to save us mental energy. But sometimes we’ve got to be courageous enough to undertake the mental energy necessary to reevaluate our rules and decide if they’re really applicable in our current situation.

    I’m glad you did, and that you weren’t artificially constrained by your self-imposed rule.

  15. Well put, Colin. I agree we needn’t get caught up in following rules. In fact I wrote a blog post about that recently called “Rules are for Lazy People”.

    Obviously the title was meant to be provocative but the point of the post was that rules are made to save us mental energy. But sometimes we’ve got to be courageous enough to undertake the mental energy necessary to reevaluate our rules and decide if they’re really applicable in our current situation.

    I’m glad you did, and that you weren’t artificially constrained by your self-imposed rule.

  16. Had something similar happen the other day–I was just about to accept yet another invitation to something that would have been great fun, but then I stepped back and realized that the reason that I, myself, have been so stressed is because I’ve been taking on more than I can handle. So it took some will power, but I said no. As you’ve pointed out here, rules that aren’t flexible–no matter whose they are–do us more harm than good sometimes.

  17. Had something similar happen the other day–I was just about to accept yet another invitation to something that would have been great fun, but then I stepped back and realized that the reason that I, myself, have been so stressed is because I’ve been taking on more than I can handle. So it took some will power, but I said no. As you’ve pointed out here, rules that aren’t flexible–no matter whose they are–do us more harm than good sometimes.

  18. Had something similar happen the other day–I was just about to accept yet another invitation to something that would have been great fun, but then I stepped back and realized that the reason that I, myself, have been so stressed is because I’ve been taking on more than I can handle. So it took some will power, but I said no. As you’ve pointed out here, rules that aren’t flexible–no matter whose they are–do us more harm than good sometimes.

  19. I hear you, Colin.

    I actually just left New Zealand after a six-month working holiday, and I was faced with that sort of situation a lot.

    Some friends and I got work picking kiwis in Te Puke (really hard work!) and the first thing they all started talking about was going skydiving, now that we had some income.

    I too have trained myself to “opt-in” as much as possible when an interesting experience presents itself. So I said yes.

    But it didn’t sit right with me. The cost of it would have been about three days’ worth of backbreaking orchard work, and it just wasn’t how I wanted to spend my earnings. I would rather use it to pay for a few more weeks of relaxed, no-frills travel, and use my hard-earned downtime to write at an unhurried pace.

    So I reneged, and felt so much better. I’ve had so many awesome experiences anyway. They’re all trade-offs of some sort, and this one was just a bad deal.

  20. I hear you, Colin.

    I actually just left New Zealand after a six-month working holiday, and I was faced with that sort of situation a lot.

    Some friends and I got work picking kiwis in Te Puke (really hard work!) and the first thing they all started talking about was going skydiving, now that we had some income.

    I too have trained myself to “opt-in” as much as possible when an interesting experience presents itself. So I said yes.

    But it didn’t sit right with me. The cost of it would have been about three days’ worth of backbreaking orchard work, and it just wasn’t how I wanted to spend my earnings. I would rather use it to pay for a few more weeks of relaxed, no-frills travel, and use my hard-earned downtime to write at an unhurried pace.

    So I reneged, and felt so much better. I’ve had so many awesome experiences anyway. They’re all trade-offs of some sort, and this one was just a bad deal.

  21. I hear you, Colin.

    I actually just left New Zealand after a six-month working holiday, and I was faced with that sort of situation a lot.

    Some friends and I got work picking kiwis in Te Puke (really hard work!) and the first thing they all started talking about was going skydiving, now that we had some income.

    I too have trained myself to “opt-in” as much as possible when an interesting experience presents itself. So I said yes.

    But it didn’t sit right with me. The cost of it would have been about three days’ worth of backbreaking orchard work, and it just wasn’t how I wanted to spend my earnings. I would rather use it to pay for a few more weeks of relaxed, no-frills travel, and use my hard-earned downtime to write at an unhurried pace.

    So I reneged, and felt so much better. I’ve had so many awesome experiences anyway. They’re all trade-offs of some sort, and this one was just a bad deal.

  22. I note that the first commenter spoke of pushing limits. I feel threatened in my own limit-pushing when I hear about other people doing the same thing, only better.

    But that makes a lot of not-sense. I should be happy for those go-fo-broke limit breakers. And I am, but only when I sit down and think about it.

  23. I note that the first commenter spoke of pushing limits. I feel threatened in my own limit-pushing when I hear about other people doing the same thing, only better.

    But that makes a lot of not-sense. I should be happy for those go-fo-broke limit breakers. And I am, but only when I sit down and think about it.

  24. I note that the first commenter spoke of pushing limits. I feel threatened in my own limit-pushing when I hear about other people doing the same thing, only better.

    But that makes a lot of not-sense. I should be happy for those go-fo-broke limit breakers. And I am, but only when I sit down and think about it.

  25. I’m all for breaking rules right now, especially those that I create for myself. I’m trying to forget about what I “should” do and instead prefer to focus on spending time being drawn to activities that feel right. In eliminating the “should” the constant shadow of consequence seems to be fading and there’s a lot more space for spontaneity which is a far more rewarding way to live.

  26. I’m all for breaking rules right now, especially those that I create for myself. I’m trying to forget about what I “should” do and instead prefer to focus on spending time being drawn to activities that feel right. In eliminating the “should” the constant shadow of consequence seems to be fading and there’s a lot more space for spontaneity which is a far more rewarding way to live.

  27. I’m all for breaking rules right now, especially those that I create for myself. I’m trying to forget about what I “should” do and instead prefer to focus on spending time being drawn to activities that feel right. In eliminating the “should” the constant shadow of consequence seems to be fading and there’s a lot more space for spontaneity which is a far more rewarding way to live.

  28. Recently I’ve been finding myself stressed, but for the opposite reasons. I’m getting work done, making some progress on my projects, but am not taking the time to get out and go on the adventures. I need to recharge, but from the other way around!

  29. Recently I’ve been finding myself stressed, but for the opposite reasons. I’m getting work done, making some progress on my projects, but am not taking the time to get out and go on the adventures. I need to recharge, but from the other way around!

  30. Recently I’ve been finding myself stressed, but for the opposite reasons. I’m getting work done, making some progress on my projects, but am not taking the time to get out and go on the adventures. I need to recharge, but from the other way around!

  31. Right there with you Colin. I had set my date for breaking free and setting out on a locationally independent journey by bike from Boulder to Canada on June 6th.

    I’ve been selling all my collectible miniatures on Ebay to fund the new lifestyle, and get the tools I need to be the Traveling Magi, doing astrology charts on the road.

    So I got the bicycle and supped it up with gear, and the cool backpack, and the DROID phone, and the I-pad, and just today ordered the new MAC Book PRO, which I’m super psyched about…

    But I don’t feel comfortable leaving until I complete the process of digitizing all my creative projects that I want to work on wherever… But at some point you just have to go, and recreate stuff on the fly!

    Meanwhile I’ve been doing practice rides before I set off to nelson BC from Boulder, and my butt already hurts, but it is getting used to being in the saddle. I’m aiming to depart under the Next New Moon in Gemini, so we’ll see if I can tie everything together in ten days! Now that I’m done being an Ebay Merchant and spending my days going to the post office, things should flow more creatively and smoothly, even though my family thinks I’ve lost it!

  32. Right there with you Colin. I had set my date for breaking free and setting out on a locationally independent journey by bike from Boulder to Canada on June 6th.

    I’ve been selling all my collectible miniatures on Ebay to fund the new lifestyle, and get the tools I need to be the Traveling Magi, doing astrology charts on the road.

    So I got the bicycle and supped it up with gear, and the cool backpack, and the DROID phone, and the I-pad, and just today ordered the new MAC Book PRO, which I’m super psyched about…

    But I don’t feel comfortable leaving until I complete the process of digitizing all my creative projects that I want to work on wherever… But at some point you just have to go, and recreate stuff on the fly!

    Meanwhile I’ve been doing practice rides before I set off to nelson BC from Boulder, and my butt already hurts, but it is getting used to being in the saddle. I’m aiming to depart under the Next New Moon in Gemini, so we’ll see if I can tie everything together in ten days! Now that I’m done being an Ebay Merchant and spending my days going to the post office, things should flow more creatively and smoothly, even though my family thinks I’ve lost it!

  33. Right there with you Colin. I had set my date for breaking free and setting out on a locationally independent journey by bike from Boulder to Canada on June 6th.

    I’ve been selling all my collectible miniatures on Ebay to fund the new lifestyle, and get the tools I need to be the Traveling Magi, doing astrology charts on the road.

    So I got the bicycle and supped it up with gear, and the cool backpack, and the DROID phone, and the I-pad, and just today ordered the new MAC Book PRO, which I’m super psyched about…

    But I don’t feel comfortable leaving until I complete the process of digitizing all my creative projects that I want to work on wherever… But at some point you just have to go, and recreate stuff on the fly!

    Meanwhile I’ve been doing practice rides before I set off to nelson BC from Boulder, and my butt already hurts, but it is getting used to being in the saddle. I’m aiming to depart under the Next New Moon in Gemini, so we’ll see if I can tie everything together in ten days! Now that I’m done being an Ebay Merchant and spending my days going to the post office, things should flow more creatively and smoothly, even though my family thinks I’ve lost it!

  34. That's interesting Colin. The downside of saying yes to opportunities is that sometimes you end up experiencing those meant for other people, not you (skydiving in your case).

    I set myself some rules, but I have to agree with you. We need to remain flexible and follow our instinct.

  35. That's interesting Colin. The downside of saying yes to opportunities is that sometimes you end up experiencing those meant for other people, not you (skydiving in your case).

    I set myself some rules, but I have to agree with you. We need to remain flexible and follow our instinct.

  36. Brilliant! And true. Many times, we are our own harshest critics, worst enemies, star-throwing ninja assassins, and the like. At least, I know I do that a lot myself: being too hard on myself, trying too hard, and ending up failing when I should've just let myself be, and just be free to move about the cabin.

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