There’s been a topic on my mind lately that is dear to my heart, and intricately connected to what I’m currently attempting to write a book about. That topic is how we use our time, and what activities we select to do, or don't do, with that time. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile now, you know that I’m a CPA by day, belly dancer by night. I also have a pretty big range of other interests that I actively and regularly engage in, including but not limited to foreign travel, writing this blog and the aforementioned book, running distance races, aerial classes, playing the violin, volunteering, serving as a board member for non-profit organizations, scrapbooking, and more.
At times I’ve been criticized, even by my close friends and family, that I have too many activities. That my schedule is too packed and I need to scale back. And while I can understand their sentiment, I don’t agree with it.
There has been a long-running narrative in our culture that you need to choose a particular career path and one or two side-interests/hobbies to go with it. But I strongly believe that this discredits the way that myself and many other people experience the world around them. I am a curious and creative person and I look out into the world with awe. There are so many new things to try and experiences to be had. How can I pick only a few? Why do I need to “master” a particular trade or hobby, focusing on it with singularity from the moment I enter college to the day I retire? When I look at this narrow approach to life that limits our choices and experiences, to me it seems to create undue pressure. The message has been that each person needs to quickly figure out and commit to the one career path and/or interest that they are supposed to focus on for the entirely of their lives. With this mentality, it’s no wonder many twenty-something’s have a quarter-life crisis after leaving college!
If you’re like me, and you have a wide range of interests, and you feel either subtle or overt pressure that you need to choose what your life's focus is, I say refuse to choose! Only you know if something isn’t working for your life or not. Take a moment to ask yourself that question: Are any of my activities or commitments causing an issue? Or is it only external pressures that make me feel I need to limit myself?
Rather, than picking just one profession or just one hobby, I think it’s more important to make sure that the jobs and activities that you spend your time on are in alignment with your core values. For me, I have eight core values: passion, discovery, creativity, empowerment, love, holistic living, spirituality, and authenticity. How to pick core values and what those words mean to me, is another blog post (or two) in and of itself. But yes, these are the things I value and what I want my life and my work to reflect. And these are the standards of measurement that I use when gauging whether or not an activity or interest is appropriate for me. When I evaluate how I want to use my time, I frequently ask myself if the new activity I’m pondering honors one or more of my core values. Using these as indicators, rather than taking a quantitative measurement of how many things I should be engaged in, is much more meaningful for me.
So yes, pursue that creative passion! Dance, sing, write, explore! Start moonlighting. Book an exotic vacation. I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on what your core values are right now (and yes, they can change over time, and that’s perfectly okay), and see if you have either congruency or disconnect between those values and how you employ your time. If you have dissonance, starting making some changes. Expand your boundaries. Let go of pressures to follow a traditional path through life. Forge your own path! Whatever lights you up and makes you sparkle from the inside out is the right path for you. Don’t let anyone else pick for you.