Illustration of a light switch.

How To Turn Yourself On

For some time now I’ve been working on turning things off in my life. I’ve turned off junk food, turned off my phone, I even threw my television out the window. Okay, maybe I exaggerate, I’m not Led Zeppelin … To be more exact, I’ve turned off all the advertising I possibly can. Because it’s all sugar isn’t it? Candy for the mind. These things we often consume without realising we consume them, or that we have the option to turn these things off. But believe me – yes, you can delete Facebook off your phone and you will survive. Yes, you can cut sugar from your life and actually feel better. Yes, you can turn the television off and you won’t really miss anything. Nothing major anyway. In my case, I haven’t just stopped at turning the “candy” off, I’ve turned off the slimy yucky bitter things too that sometimes, like young kids chewing on garden snails, we consume inadvertently out of sheer boredom, just because they’re “there” … negative news, toxic people, gossip. I’ve worked diligently on shutting out all those slugs from my life. And I’m proud of myself. It’s taken a long time to break my addiction to this mental fairy floss, and yet, for some time I’ve been naive in thinking that turning all of these things off will automatically lead to productivity.

It doesn’t quite work like that.

Well, actually it does. But it also doesn’t. There is no magical rule, that says turning off distraction will lead to productivity. Productivity isn’t the exact opposite of distraction is it? Attention is. It’s what you do with that attention that will make you productive. Turning things off is half the battle. The next phase is turning things on. I now realise that if you’re really going to achieve what you want to achieve in life, you have to know yourself. Turning off the television, cutting out the mental fairy floss will get you time, space, and maybe some quiet. The question is, what do you do with that time, space, and quiet once you’ve got it? I don’t want to be a struggling, miserable, starving artist burning my manuscripts in the fireplace just to keep warm. I want to step out into the world like a juggernaut. I want to roll down streets and take life on. On. That’s the operative word here.

How do you turn yourself on?

No, no, no. Not like that. I mean, how do you turn on your passions, your personality, your purpose? I’m pretty sure I know these things in myself. My passion is writing theatre and comedy, my personality … well, I’m still working on it, and my purpose? I’m starting to realise my purpose is not only to make people laugh but to make people think, about philosophy, about the world we live, and to perhaps help others along this ever-twisting path to a meaningful happy life.

I’m now starting to realise that all the goods things in life that we want: productivity, motivation, happiness, enlightenment are all switches. All too often though, we can fall into the trap though of thinking that if we can just get the magic recipe right in our lives we might be able to flip one or more of those switches for good, that if we cover them with enough araldite the lights will just keep on shining. That’s how Buddha reached nirvana, right? Not quite. The problem is, no matter how much superglue you cover those switches in, they will always find a way to turn back off, because that’s life. It surges backwards and forwards, up and down, like an endless Kanagawa wave. Somedays you feel enlightened, somedays you feel miserable. Nothing is infinitely solid. Instead, everything is infinitely changing. And that’s the way it should be because if things didn’t move up and down we couldn’t surf the waves. Instead of glueing the switches, what we really need to focus on is what makes us want to turn on the light in the first place, that bigger, more elusive invisible switch within ourselves that says “Yes!” The fuse box. The more productive people are just betting at getting back up when the lights cut out and flicking that fuse on again. Sometimes it’s only when we turn all the switches off – the on button on the television, the on button on your computer, the Facebook button on your phone – that we can start to question if these things are really turning us on at all, and to see in the dark what really motivates us and what we truly want to spend our time doing.

What turns you off?

What turns you on?

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