The Facets in Action Series
What is the meaning of our lives? Why are we here?
These questions have been pondered, explored, and reflected upon by famous philosophers and not so famous everyday people from the dawn of time. We are all searching to make sense of our place in this world and to understand just what our purpose is. With every question, there seems to be two more questions … Is there just one purpose in our lives? Does it change? Is my purpose the same as yours? Are there right or wrong purposes?
I wish I had all the answers to these questions- but, in truth nobody does. Perhaps we are seeking to answer the wrong questions. Rather than asking the ‘big why?’ question, we should be asking ourselves how we are spending our time and if this is aligned to how we want to spend our time.
It sounds so logical and simple… but somehow it can be harder to answer when we are out of sync- when we are spending our time doing things that are misaligned with our core beliefs, values, and mental models. Let me share my thinking…
In a world filled with technology and access literally in our back pockets, it won’t be a surprise to hear that we are spending more time on our devices than ever before. In fact, based on a research study by lonergan research, the average Australian is spending more time in front of a screen than they do asleep (average 9.4 hours). If this is aligned to how we want to spend our time, then it is fine- but what is the consequence if it isn’t?
Adam Atler, a social psychologist, highlighted in his TED talk just how much of our ‘me’ time is spent on our screens, and the alarming increase over the past 12 years. The white bar in the illustration below captures the time we have left over after we sleep, work, and attend to our survival needs (eating, showering, looking after the kids). The yellow bar, represents our screen time.
WHAT? The tiny white bar represents the time we have to do all the things that make us unique, different, human. I remember when I first saw this graphic representation and thought- this can’t be true and if it is, surely it doesn’t represent me. I have to be different and not attached to my phone, apps, computer, netflix, and socials.
To investigate just how attached I was to my screen, and to determine if my humanity was slowing slipping away, I did an experiment. I turned on my apple iPhone Screen Time to monitor my use and set some daily limits. My hypothesis was busted- big time. I wasn’t different, I had habituated to my screen and I didn’t even know it.
I remember feeling guilty as my phone notified me that I had reached my screen limit- thinking it was impossible that I had reached the time limit already. Time had slipped away and I wasn’t even sure why I was looking at my phone. If you want to learn more about how we can become addicted to our phones, check out this Harvard article. The key takeaway is that our apps, especially our socials, are built to reinforce our neural reward pathways and we will take any opportunity to be rewarded.
So what does this mean and how is it related to our noble purpose? Our noble purpose is about ‘doing what we do for more than ourselves’. It is about living our life for a purpose that is greater than ourselves (and this includes our phones and followers). Our phones, and screens for that matter, are distracting us from the things that make us ‘individual’, ‘different’, ‘passionate’, and ‘human’. Are you spending more time on your phone than you would like? Do you want to spend more of your time with your flesh friends, family, doing hobbies, volunteering, making your mark on this planet in a positive way?
If the answer is yes, perhaps a screen time intervention is in order… put the phone down (after you finish reading this blog of course).
What can you do to check you are living your noble purpose?
- Try my experiment, put your Screen Time on and set some daily limits to help get a reality check.
- Decide just how much screen time will be acceptable for you, then work towards it. Remember to put your phone out of sight (proximity is everything) and switch off your notifications to limit your dopamine reward activation.
- Reflect on the things that you consider are important in your life, ask yourself if you are you spending time in these areas? Do you need to spend more/less time?
- How do you want to be remembered, are you leaving the impression on the earth that you would like?
Remember that our noble purpose should reflect the things that we believe are important and it will be shaped by our core values, beliefs and mental models. Our purpose can shift and change, think of important moments in your life that may have sent your noble purpose compass spinning, for example meeting a new friend, moving in with your spouse, having a child, starting a new career, or finding a true cause you believe in. Revisit your noble purpose, and continue to monitor if you are spending your time aligned to how you want to spend your time.
For more insights and exercises you can use to improve your wellbeing and working life, check out the rest of our Facets in Action Series. Alternatively, if you’re looking to improve wellbeing, productivity and effectiveness across your organisation, contact our experienced team.
As an organisational psychology consultant at Kaya, Lisa Vandertogt believes the key to unlocking both individual and organisational potential lies in a holistic approach and understanding the complex interplay between individuals, teams, and organisations. She has specialist interest in wellbeing, engagement, diversity and inclusion, team effectiveness, and personal capability development.