I subscribe to, but infrequently read, the periodic musings of a guy named Leo Babauta who writes Zen Habits. For some reason, the emailed post I received on July 1 caught my attention. Entitled, “A Year of Living Without,” it detailed Leo’s plans to live without, for a month at a time during the coming year, something he normally enjoys. One month, he’ll give up coffee, another month he’ll give up alcohol, and another he’ll give up video entertainment. His purpose in “living without” is to test the boundaries of his needs.
“Testing the boundaries of my needs.” That struck a chord within me. What do we…what do I…need to be content? Do I need television or Netflix? Do I need alcohol? Do I need my morning coffee? Do I need my iPhone? Do I need the internet? Must I go out to restaurants to enjoy a meal? Do I need meat in my diet?
The answer to each of those questions is a simple one: no. I do not need those things, I simply want and enjoy those things. The real question is this: do I have the discipline to do without them? And a corollary question: what value is there in doing without things I want and that I enjoy? I intend to find the answers to those questions by testing the boundaries of my discipline. My hope is that I will find more than the answer to that question. I hope that I will find focus that I’ve been lacking. And, at the same time I am testing the boundaries of my discipline by doing without, I will test the boundaries of my discipline by replacing the absent “thing” with something that’s missing today.
For example, if I choose to do without coffee, I may not replace it with tea, as Leo plans to do, but with a two mile walk. If I choose to do without television and video entertainment, I may replace it with time devoted to writing. If I choose to do without eating meat, I may replace it with meditation.
I haven’t completed my plan, but when I do, I will write about it. And I will share what I hope to be my successes in exercising self-discipline and what it teaches me about myself.