Dancing Between Mindfulness and Productivity

I’m feel compelled to be two things. There’s a part of me that needs to be slower, to be quiet and relaxed. This is the side that sees meditation as key and “going with the flow” as a dominating mentality.

The other is a call to be quick, decisive, and something astounding. This is my father’s nudging. It’s the push to create something for myself. When colleges and self-help books ask “what’s your purpose?” I get pulled in this direction.

And It almost always feels as though these two cannot coexist, and a taught line holds them together, only being strained with a heftier force in opposite directions.

While, in some ways, these two mentalities don’t inherently denounce each other, they’re still difficult to embody at the same time, extremely hard to actually. It’s clear in any attempt to meditate that if you focus too much on the goals of meditation it loses it meaning. Productivity is not its purpose.

I think there’s an idea that you can be the best version of yourself when you let constructs of how to act or what to do go. It’s sort of the Taoist idea of “the way” or flowing through life like water. But it’s hard to figure out new things and make progress on projects when that’s my mentality… because it feels so good to give into bad habits. Like I said in my earlier post, Creating a Thoughtful and Fulfilling Life, I’m aiming to develop tangible skills and create a larger portfolio. And as I’ve seen in the past, “going with the flow” often doesn’t get me very far.

But the contrary is that I don’t enjoy my experiences as much as I could, instead, my mind is caught on how to move forward. How do I use this moment as a springboard to the next? I don’t want to be the ***hole that starts talking to a good friend, only to be shifting my head around and eyeing other things to be doing.

That’s not how I want to operate. I don’t want to constantly seek out how to use moments for my benefit. Even though it’s not inherently stressful, it’s still a pretty horrid life from my point of view. I much rather have some great ability to relax and be fully present during great experiences.

So how do I find that balance in between?

There’s an obvious connection to mindfulness… of course, having that balance between relaxed meditation and goal setting is important.

Modern life, at least in the United States, seems full of advice about finding your purpose, about making an impact in the world, and about maximizing efficiency. That at first really spoke to me. But even books about mindfulness seem skewed in a way of effectively increasing productivity. This all seems overwhelmingly contradictory to how we really want to feel. Yes, of course, we would like to feel meaningful and do something fulfilling with our lives but does that necessarily mean thinking about these optimizing kind of mindsets?

I hope not. Because if it does I’m either not going to get very far in life or I’m going to be stressed the f**k out. In my advice to people, during the seldom moments it’s requested, I argue against the heaps of self-help books that spew efficiency and productivity. Don’t stress yourself with ideas of how to make the most of every single second. If you stop thinking about all that, the fulfillment that comes with simply living an alright life and being on a beautiful planet will surely reach you.*

*except if you’re in a particularly shitty situation… in which case figure out a way to get to a better spot and then take this advice… because it sucks to be in shitty situations.

Balance is the key. It’s an initial step toward the solution for the tension between productivity and enjoying the present. That’s not the entire solution though. Of course, I don’t have the answer. What I do know is that there’s surely a greater complexity to what resolving this tension means and, no doubt, a difficult journey toward reaching a wholesome answer.


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