|Photo by John Tuesday on Unsplash|
Looking for a foolproof method to wreck your ability to be present for your own life? Just follow The American Plan, a twelve step program for mindlessness, guaranteed to leave you numb and disengaged:
1. As soon as you're awake, pick up your phone and flick through social media feeds and email.
2. Continue to do this as you eat. Pay absolutely no attention to the calories you're inhaling.
3. Make sure to ignore roommates, spouse, and kids in favor of your phone!
4. Determine to fit two hours' worth of tasks into 45 minutes, and do everything while thinking of something else. Let your anxiety and impatience continually simmer.
5. Eat lunch in front of a screen, once again failing to notice what you eat or how it makes you feel.
6. Continue to rush while trying to fit in more tasks than you have time for, letting your temper boil over when anyone gets in your way. Drive around town like a bat out of hell.
7. Eat plenty of snacks and drink coffee or energy drinks so you can "power through" your afternoon.
8. Rush your kids or whoever through evening routines so you can get them out of your hair, collapse on the couch, and "relax" in front of the TV.
9. If you must, discuss schedules and logistics with your partner, or chat about sports or celebrities. All other subjects are off the table. Keep your phone nearby, and allow interruptions whenever a notification pops up.
10. Eat more snacks and drink some wine to enable your "relaxation." Scroll constantly through TV channels (or zombie out on Netflix), and keep checking your phone.
11. Eventually go to bed, making sure to check social media, email, and news sites to make sure you haven't missed anything.
12. Sleep poorly so you'll be ready to do it all over again tomorrow!
Congratulations! If you're not already feeling overwhelmed, trapped, unfocused, and depressed, you soon will be.
For best results, obey these rules:
1. Never step outside to look at the sky, feel the wind, or breathe the air. Get a weather app.
2. Don't observe any details about trees, flowers, birds, clouds, the sun, moon, stars, or anything that might tell you the season. Allow the clothes on display in stores and "holiday weekend" advertising to tell you what time of year it is.
3. Don't treat people who are there to serve you as if they are also human beings. They have a function, and you should only notice them if they make you wait, get your order wrong, give you the wrong change, or fail to tell you to have a nice day.
4. Don't recognize that a child, spouse, or friend seems discouraged, sad, or worried. Adopt a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. You have your own problems to deal with, and don't have time for theirs.
5. Never take action. You may "like" all the posts about refugees or the environment or whatever, but don't actually give money or donate food or pick up trash. You've "increased awareness," so go ahead and feel virtuous.
6. Never go online for only a specified amount of time to do a specific task. You might miss something important! Always be ready to respond to click bait, watch funny cat videos, look at celebrity photos, check hotel prices in Cancun just in case you ever go, etc. You're so busy you deserve the break.
7. Don't fail to respond immediately when you get a notification, no matter what you're doing. Sure, it takes 15 minutes to get back into the flow of a task if you're interrupted, but those tweets, texts, and emails won't answer themselves. And you don't want to miss a special sale or free offer either!
8. Don't consider dropping commitments from your schedule or allowing more time to get things done. Being busy is how you prove your importance and value as a person. Besides, constant stress is a normal part of 21st century life, and there are pharmaceuticals that can help make it bearable.
9. Never listen to anyone who has an opinion different from yours. She's obviously a hater who just doesn't get it. Besides, you don't have time to consider more than one point of view.
10. Don't allow yourself to experience silence. Ideally, you will always be surrounded by traffic, construction noise, or commercial TV or radio. At the very least, always wear an earbud so you can listen to your personal playlist instead of bird song, rain, crickets, or the person right in front of you.
P.S. Want an antidote to The American Plan? Check out my new book, Minimalism A to Z, and read about how mindfulness reduces anxiety and stress while expanding your experience of the world, how slowing down and doing less makes you so much more productive, how gratitude crowds out negative emotions, how limits increase freedom -- and so much more!