Creating Need - A 90-Day Challenge Update
I have received a lot of inquiry about how my 90-day challenge of non-consumption is progressing. Is it difficult? Have I broken the rules yet? Where am I most tempted? Will I continue all the way through June 28? Am I learning anything from this experiment?
I am proud to report that my purchase record contains only consumables: food, gas, hygiene products. I will absolutely continue through the original end date. I have felt tempted and challenged, as the name and intention imply, but this has been an amazing driver of insight and growth.
My intention was to purposefully challenge myself, to shine a light on subconscious patterns, and break my use of pacifiers and distractions.
The greatest challenge comes in abstaining from podcasts. I lived for so long (even while traveling abroad) with my valve open wide to the torrent of new, exciting, educational, and funny information that podcasts offer. With my valve now completely shut the waters of my mind have settled into a stillness and calm that I never knew was beneath the constant flow. I find myself more at peace and more clear-headed than ever.
This new found serenity and clarity create a much better environment for creative thoughts and work to come through me. My work feels easy, light, focused, and exciting.
After the challenge I will return to podcasts with a completely new relationship to their use. I need new information. I need my perspectives constantly challenged. In podcasts I find inspiration, motivation to grow, fodder for new creative pursuits, and (most importantly) fun. I am a serial learner and teacher and will always need both for complete fulfillment. I will meter my podcast consumption with an understanding of the role they can play in both my growth and stagnation. This challenge has inspired a new lifestyle rule:
Each day, I will not take in until I have put forth.
This rule maintains my priority on creation, allowing in new information only once I have earned it and made space for it. Utilizing the calm waters before breaking the surface with a new stream.
I have not had a terribly difficult time refraining from purchases, but that does not mean that I have not been challenged. The greatest challenge comes from the implication of need. Consumption grows out of control because our criteria for defining need are nebulous. We can too strictly define our needs to halt over-consumption.
There are needs that cannot be argued against like food, water, and love. Many other needs fall into a category not necessarily vital for survival but might as well be considered so: shelter, clothing, basic hygiene. Once we have satisfied these basics, we define our needs by personal criteria. There are no right or wrong needs. Think about the type of things that you feel you need to be happy. Your survival does not depend on these but its OK to consider them needs to feel completely fulfilled.
I define my computer, a few favorite kitchen supplies, my skateboard and surfboards as needs. Your definition will be quite different.
The point is that we actually define our needs by conscious choice. We all draw a line at the level of consumption that we deem necessary. Regardless of where you draw yours, it’s important that it be clearly defined.
Problems arise because we do not maintain a rigid definition. Obviously our personal criteria will change through the various stages of life but it is important to maintain a clearly defined set of needs moment by moment. Without a clear set of guidelines we allow our definition of need to drift with the tides of external temptation and internal justification.
We easily convince ourselves of new needs, mounting justifications for why a given product is vital to our existence or our happiness. Advertisements and other external forces need only make a subtle suggestion of need and trust that our own internal process will finish the job.
I made a black and white definition of my needs for 90 days, setting abstinence as my default purchase decision. This has not and cannot free me from the internal dialogue. I only ensure that no matter the conclusion my little justification engine reaches I will reject the outcome.
This was difficult at first, but now brings liberation and lightness. I feel as though I have seen beneath the surface and can transcend my internal conversation. I feel like an observer to the internal dialogue rather than an active participant.
The greatest temptation comes from sale and discounted items. I see an item online that represents a fantastic deal on an item that I really like. This is the perfect fuel to the internal process that expands my definition of need. Once the initial disappointment subsides I actually have fun watching something deep in my subconscious make a valiant effort for justification.
I look forward to continuing this challenge to the end. I will inevitably miss out on a few fantastic deals and meaningful podcasts. Crystallizing my personal definition of need is more than worth the sacrifice. The longer I can stay out of the conversation that creates need the more thoughtfully I can participate in the future.
The point is not to maintain a completely rigid set of needs, but to use careful consideration in how I adjust my line in the future.