Intentionality Feels Good
Join us for a Cal Newport-style digital declutter in April.
Hey everyone! Spring has sprung and we are excited to announce a new challenge for the month of April. You could say it's a sort of spring cleaning for your mind and your attention. Details at the bottom.
Before we jump into this week's Stuff, check out a recent interview that Shane just did on the Talking to Teens podcast. The host did a wonderful job in preparing and conducting this interview and it shows in the quality of the conversation!
And now to the Stuff.
From the Ages
“Whenever you get an impression of some pleasure, as with any impression, guard yourself from being carried away by it, let it await your action, give yourself a pause. After that, bring to mind both times, first when you have enjoyed the pleasure and later when you will regret it and hate yourself. Then compare to those the joy and satisfaction you’d feel for abstaining altogether. However, if a seemingly appropriate time arises to act on it, don’t be overcome by its comfort, pleasantness, and allure—but against all of this, how much better the consciousness of conquering it.”
Source: Enchiridion, 34
Cal Newport on intentionality:
“The sugar high of convenience is fleeting and the sting of missing out dulls rapidly, but the meaningful glow that comes from taking charge of what claims your time and attention is something that persists.”
Source: Digital Minimalism
Like the junk food diet that most of our parents warned about, our digital diet is too high in junk. As Cal Newport explains above, this junk media diet mirrors our addiction to sugar. It’s enticing and even a certain kind of delicious, but ultimately empty and regrettable. And, as with sugar, taking back control of our consumption leads to a sense of freedom, empowerment, and joy that no dopamine hit can match. In simple terms: intentionality feels good.
As you begin to make positive lifestyle changes of any sort—better exercise and nutrition habits, quitting drinking or smoking, or being more open in your relationships—a strange phenomenon arises. The individual rewards are wonderful but there is more to the story. Beneath the practical benefits that come from these changes, you feel a glow of pride and self-love that isn't a direct effect of the new habits you've put in place. The energy that you feel from improving your nutrition pales in comparison to the empowerment you feel for making the change. Exercising conscious control in your life brings some of the most profound and rewarding feelings available to us. Intentionality feels good.
We don't want to feel that we are puppets, pulled about by the whims of impulse. Agency gives our life a sense of progress. With intentionality, we feel that our life is headed somewhere, but also that we are the ones in power. We come to realize that the outcome of our choices is less important than the fact that we are making them well. The self-love required to make a firm decision in your life and the discipline to hold the line that you set for yourself feel far better than any of the direct results of those choices. The best words for this feeling are "meaning" and "purpose."
Perhaps the most important arena where we need to flex this power today is with our technology use. While our phones might not cause as much immediate destruction as substance abuse, they are equally addictive and, worse, the most readily-available, socially-acceptable hit in existence. Imagine a junkie whose stash magically refills in their pocket—always available, always calling, and no one deems a quick hit mid-conversation as shameful. This comparison is hardly sensational when we look at some of the statistics on smartphone use. While polling varies on the topic, on average American check their phones at least 96 times each day while one poll reported this as high as 300 times. All of these checks add up to between two and four hours of total daily hours on our phones.
Within the unique set of challenges of modern life, mastering your technology use (most specifically your smartphone ) is the lead domino for better habits and healthier life. Create healthy boundaries around your phone and you will master what is likely the strongest pull on your attention and time. This single act pays a huge return—building momentum for other changes and setting the precedent of agency and autonomy. Intentionality begets more intentionality. A conscious plan to limit your phone use and replace those countless reclaimed hours also gives you the chance to build new, productive habits and better relationships.
A Digital Declutter
To put this principle in action, we (me, Shane, and many of the Seekers) will do a digital declutter in April. This challenge is inspired by the 30-Day Digitial Declutter that Cal Newport lays out in Digital Minimalism. We have outlined our specific guidelines and recommendations and will share a challenge field guide with our membership group, but essentially this is an elimination diet for your digital technology. We will eliminate ALL non-essential technology from our lives for the month of April (essential means that eliminating it will not interfere with your livelihood, so email at work is fine, but Instagram, Tiktok, and most random phone email checks probably aren’t). This extended fast breaks the impulse to reach for your phone and removes your ability to mindlessly scroll, stream, and surf. At the end of 30 days, you reflect and re-introduce any and all technology that you believe adds value to your life. The whole point is to first break the automatic use and then create an intentional set of tech guidelines for yourself that align with your personal values and serve your unique circumstances.
We will host the challenge discussion within our member's community (where we have already begun to lay out our personal guidelines for this challenge). You can participate in this challenge for free by signing up for a membership and using the code digital-declutter (first month of membership free).
Thank you all for reading this week and we hope that you'll join us for a focused, intentional, and distraction-free April!
Life is too short to be normal,