What did you do last weekend?
Head into the Great Outdoors? Party hard? Hole up in your room? Run around doing a whole lot of stuff you HAD to do for everyone else? Sneak back to work because that’s what you love best of all?
Who cares? you ask. My weekend is MY business. Fair point. But it matters because your weekend is a peephole into your world. How you spend your down time holds clues to who you are, how well you’re functioning — and where your life is heading.
Think about it. Most of us run to a timetable during the week: work, study, school, exercise, meetings, groups and leisure activities. Monday arrives and, like it or not, we’re off and running, doing everything we HAVE to do.
But when we strip away that structure, we get a clearer picture of what we LIKE to do and/or how capable we are of doing it.
One of the quickest ways to tell whether a person is mentally struggling is to ask what they did the previous weekend — and then to see if that has changed over a particular period of time. A person who is depressed, for example, will often describe a shut down, that they’ve begun to avoid their favourite people and activities in ways they have not previously.
Weekends obviously don’t provide the whole picture. Partners, family, domestic and work obligations heavily influence how we spend our time — and the weather plays a part too! But if you’re up for some quick ’n easy self-analysis your weekend is a great place to start.
Try this quick quiz:
- What did you do last weekend?
- Who did you do it with?
- What and who did you avoid?
- Now answer WHY to each of them.
You’ve probably figured out whether you went to the beach or snowboarding or shopping or stayed indoors gaming isn’t the key to this exercise.
It’s WHY you made your choices — or had your choices made for you. Did you do what you wanted to do and with whom? Or did you feel pushed? Did a sense of duty or fear hold you back?
Often we say YES to please people or because we can’t think of any way out of it or we don’t have better plans or we haven’t given it any individual thought. Or we say NO because we have too much on or we’re too tired or stressed out or afraid.
Those might be valid reasons for how we spend our time but they won’t move our lives forward. They’ll keep us running on the treadmill with the pace set slightly too high. They’ll keep us at the mercy of circumstances. They’ll take away our sense of autonomy, which makes us feel trapped.
When we ask WHY we (1) get valuable information about ourselves and our desires and (2) reduce our confusion. That means our priorities, values, goals, passions and relationships gain clarity — which makes everything so much easier.
Are You Afraid of the Biggest Question?
“All….should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.” — James Thurber.
Asking WHY is a tale as old as time.
Simon Sinek popularised the question in his bestselling book Start with WHY which proposes we can do anything if have a big enough reason for doing so.
But all the early self-help literature is heavy with WHY; it’s usually framed up as having a sense of purpose.
When working with people I’m careful about talking up purpose because it can apply a pressure people don’t need. It implies you must know precisely why you’re here and what you’re doing to have a great life.
You don’t, especially not when you’re just starting out.
Very few people are on a rocket-like mission to save the world.
Most of us are just waking up to the ordinary chaos of life, trying to make sense of it and trying to dodge whatever slings and arrows are thrown in our path. Even getting to next week can be a stretch.
But the daily churn can also be a mighty excuse to avoid taking an honest look at your life. Why you’re spending your time as you do? Who you’re devoting your precious time to? Who you should be running from? How you could do things better? What should you stop doing? What should you start?
Asking such questions doesn’t require you to sit around all day reading Aristotle while everyone else is posting their fabulous lives on Instagram and getting bombarded with “likes”.
But if you want to own your own life it’s important to turn the heat up on yourself (just a bit).
It’s important to think about WHY you do what you do.
The weekend quiz is just a starting point. One weekend does not define you. But if there’s an unhelpful pattern buried in what you do with your down time it’s worth identifying and facing it — so you can either make a change or get some help to move forward.