Birthdays – A Catalyst for Change

Published by Thriving Erin on

 

Today is my birthday and since that apparently means I can do whatever I want, I’m breaking from my usual schedule and am not going to write a book review this week. Instead, I’m going to write about birthdays.

 

I’m thirty-one years old today – hardly a significant number. But there’s still something about birthdays that feels important. They somehow create the feeling of a new beginning and give us the ability to shift our perspective.

 

I’ve been getting messages all day from people wishing me a “blessed year ahead” or “all the best for the new year.” Our culture has embraced birthdays as significant landmarks that offer us a chance to start again. We disconnect from our old selves with all their flaws, poor choices, and insecurities and feel confident that we can be “a better me” moving forward.

 

The amazing thing about birthdays is that they don’t impact external circumstances. You may feel like a new person, but your situation won’t have changed. Yet somehow, a fresh start with fresh perspective makes us feel like we can overcome those circumstances.

 

The other thing birthdays do is remind us of our own mortality. Many people set big goals with the mantra of “it’s now or never.” This is particularly true as we approach the ‘big’ birthdays. For example, a research study on first-time marathon participants found a disproportionate number of participants were either 29, 39, or 49. With one year to go before entering a new decade, people seem to find the motivation to do things they’ve never done before.

 

These landmarks may seem arbitrary or even fabricated, but the reality is that they can be powerful tools on our journey of self-improvement and we should make sure to take advantage of them. So much of self-improvement is about motivation – the motivation to start, to stick with it, and to finish strong.

 

For some time now, I have been wanting to reduce the amount of time I spend on electronic devices. Whether it is social media, games on my phone, TV, or aimless internet browsing spending hours with my eyes glued to a screen does not line up with the goals I have for my life. So I guess now is as good a time as any! Digital minimalism really appeals to me, so it’s time I committed!

 


4 Comments

Ted Lemon · June 19, 2019 at 3:16 am

Happy Birthday! I hear your longing for digital minimalism. I have the same concern. But I’ve found that motivating that shift isn’t as simple as it seems. I wonder how it’ll go for you. One thing that’s really helped me is to turn away from “should,” and instead ask “what need is this satisfying?”

IOW, when I’m spending time interacting online, by definition it’s satisfying some need. Sometimes it’s that I just want to hide. Other times, it’s that I have something valuable that I’m trying to do. What I noticed when I started to follow this more closely is that I often felt negative about being online even when I was doing something of value, and that I wasn’t really distinguishing between “valuable” and “time-wasting.”

I don’t know if you’ve already done this analysis, but if you haven’t, it might help. Otherwise you may find yourself struggling because some of what you are doing with your devices really is worthwhile, and simply going cold turkey is going to get in the way of that.

Helen Lim · June 19, 2019 at 1:21 am

Happy birthday Erin! Digital minimalism is a great gift to give yourself. This post elaborates on why you’re doing it, do you know how you’ll do it?

Every year on my birthday I feel a shift. I feel an appreciation for the revolution around the sun I just lived. What did you appreciate most about your last year? A year that was an entry to your 30s. How can you cultivate that as a practice for the year in front of you?

Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed this very much.

Tyler Lowe · June 18, 2019 at 4:58 pm

Hi Erin! Simple but profound post. What can you do (or would you suggest others do) to hold ourselves accountable to a diet of digital minimalism? Maybe some substitutions, instead of trying to cut screen time ‘cold turkey’ would help? (replace Netflix with a book on tape that sort of thing). I’m asking in part because this concept seems very important and something I want to do….you sound more committed than I am now.

Leanne · June 18, 2019 at 1:32 am

Happy birthday Erin! I agree that a birthday feels like one of those moments to stop, reflect, reset and start afresh.

Interestingly, I’ve been on a journey of shifting my mindset from looking for occasions to do this and building it in as a constant process – a way of life. It’s not always easy and that’s why I think days like a birthday, where you feel a sense of freedom from the ordinary, do help in stepping back.

“Digital minimalism really appeals to me, so it’s time I committed!” – what a great goal to set yourself. I read a book years ago called The Winter of our Disconnect and whilst it was an extreme experiment in disconnecting from the impact of technology the overarching lessons have stuck with me and I’ve been mindful of my virtual world / real world engagement ever since. I can’t wait to read how this transpires for you, Erin.

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