We live in a culture of consumption.
I like to picture the consumption / creation paradigm as a physical process. When we consume, we are taking from the external world and bringing into ourselves, using something on the outside (whether it’s reading news, listening to music or shopping) to shift our experience on the inside.
When we create, we are taking our internal truth, creativity, or experience and bringing it out of our bodies and minds to exist in the outside world. So one comes from the outside in, and the other comes from the inside out.
The question, of course, is how much of each should you be doing and how to find a balance.
First, we need to understand that there’s a place in our lives for both consuming and creating. Both are important practices that have a purpose. There’s lately been this really negative pushback against consumption, but consuming is a vital part of creating. Musicians love to listen to music and writers are avid readers. I spend hours learning about spirituality and mindset and personal growth.
What we consume impacts what we create and vice versa. So when we talk about balance, it’s not just in terms of how much time we’re spending, but also what we’re consuming and creating.
Part of the reason that consumption has gotten such a bad reputation is because we have a negativity bias, which means that we pay more attention to information that scares or unsettles us. So, even though you might read ten news articles and eight of them will be positive, the two that are negative or concerning will stick with you and therefore have a much greater impact on your day and your mood.
Another reason why consumption gets frowned upon is because most of our consumption is passive. Passive consumption is when you’re not being intentional about what you’re consuming, you’re just consuming whatever is in front of you. It’s the difference between listening to your favorite album versus just turning on the radio. Scanning the news, browsing social media, watching TV, listening to the radio, all of that is passive consumption.
Active consumption, on the other hand, is reading a book of poetry that you’ve picked out specifically for yourself, listening to music that you know will have a particular effect on your mood or watching a YouTube video to learn a new skill.
There is also a missing step between consuming and creating: thinking. One of the negative impacts of having social media and 24/7 screens full of news and photos and alerts is that when we’re not creating, it’s so easy to fill our down time with consuming. We don’t use our unscheduled time to think, stare off into space, come up with new ideas, percolate on problems. Instead, we turn to our phones or turn on our podcasts and flip our brains into consumption mode.
So what do we do?
◼ Consuming and creating are both beautiful and important practices. They’re also interconnected, I consume what you create and you consume what I create. Make time for and honor both of them.
◼ Notice how often you passively consume versus how often you actively consume.
◼ Schedule time for creating and time for thinking and time for active consumption and then let the passive consumption happen in whatever time is leftover.
◼ Make consumption and creation a part of your physical space.
◼ Make some room only for creating and some room only for consuming and try not to mix the two.
The more you honor your own time and life energy, the easier this will be.
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