“Our lives were meant to be spent making our contribution to the world, not merely consuming the world that others create.”
For most of my life, I’ve been a remarkable consumer. I’ve easily spent over ten thousand hours over the span of many years watching movies, listening to music, and reading articles.
As I’ve tried to slow down, I’ve noticed how much we are conditioned to consume and at the same time conditioned not to notice it. It’s one of those things that just is: the radio is always on, the super Carrefour is always open, the Starbucks. These distractions give us small dopamine responses, which is why we get addicted to them.
Marketers do a great job convincing us we need more: they establish a void so we will try to fill it. This is no secret; in fact, we take it for granted now: amongst the bombardment, we realize what advertisers are doing, yet we still give them carte blanche with our attention—we let them into our homes, onto our screens, and into our personal lives via Facebook and other outlets—and when we do, the void grows deeper.
For most of us, however, the void has nothing to do with a need to consume more; in fact, the opposite is true: when we consume too much, we experience stress, anxiety, and depression, effectively deepening the void. Our possessions possess us. They weigh us down mentally, physically, emotionally, and the void becomes cavernous.
But you know what will give you an even better dopamine response? Getting out of consumption mode and creating stuff that brings value to you and other people.
I don’t have a fancy one-size-fits-all formula for flipping the switch on consumption mode to “OFF”. Producing is food for the soul. Even if it is harder, more frustrating, takes more time, and can overtake your life, it will make you far more accomplished and happier. Remember when you made artwork as a child in Kindergarten? It probably was no Picasso, but it made you happy because you produced it. It is time we got back to that.
Produce Relationships – who says production has to be tangible? Go outside and meet people. Just outside your door there are probably dozens or hundreds of people that you can meet. People are everywhere and relationships can be made with nothing more than “hello.” Go meet someone of the opposite sex who is attractive, go meet dying children at the hospital, go learn your neighbours’ name! Don’t allow society’s limitations to restrict your life. Some people may think approaching strangers is weird, but they are consumers, not producers.
Produce a Change – it may seem cliché to advocate charitable works or getting involved with your community, but there are people that genuinely need your help. I spent some time in an orphanage and refugee places and not only produced a change, but was taught a valuable lesson. You can also produce a change within. Get better in the gym, change the way you eat, the way you see people around you, produce a positive change in your studies or business – whatever.
I believe so many opportunities will show up for you in life if you’re creating stuff. Almost zero opportunities show up if you’re just consuming everyone else’s stuff.
I cannot think of more important advice to give anyone: start your day with a producer mind-set, not a consumer mind-set. If you begin your day checking the news, checking your email, and checking your notifications, you’ve launched yourself into a day of grazing a mindless consumption.
The next time you sit down at your computer to consume, ask yourself:
How can I use this time to create instead?