Better than what used to be good
This morning I read New York magazine’s weekly listing of bars and restaurants, describing fun places in the city to go to. They have a section listing some activities called “The Cut,” which I think means these are the activities that “make the cut” of their curating.
I used to read the listings to find things to do. The section is for that, and I presume many people use it that way.
Now I can barely bother. New restaurants? They don’t compare to home cooking. New bars? I hardly drink when I go out, or at all for that matter since getting so close to having six-pack abs. I used to think about many events, “Well if it’s not good at least they’ll have free alcohol,” like to gallery opening and networking events. Cutting out the alcohol raised my standards for what’s worth my time. And made me ask why I accepted spending my time just because someone gave me something free for it that hardly costs anything.
Then you get to cultural activities. I went to a modern dance performance a couple weeks ago at the Brooklyn Academy of Music that I enjoyed and saw ended up in “The Cut,” but I went to it because someone who knew about it told me about it. So I didn’t go because I was browsing.
Even things I enjoy, though, have to compete with my projects—teaching, coaching, writing the book, creating the online courses, and so on. The awesome parties they describe don’t measure up. Partly that’s because I went to many parties years ago, but I’m not tired of them.
I have better things to do. I don’t mean I have better events to attend. They’re passive—that is, you show up and something entertains me, or at least is supposed to. I have active things I’m working on that they distract from. These are matters of taste. Foodies and event planners might actively enjoy what I call passive, but we all have passive things.
To look at things you used to enjoy and see them as distracting from what matters more is a major life achievement. I didn’t create it as a deliberate goal. I’ve just deliberately chose activities and habits I found more rewarding over the years. Each time I increased the signal to noise ratio. Eventually you cut things that you considered important. When you do, you free time for the things you value more.
Then one day you find yourself viewing things you used to enjoy as not close to measuring up to what you do.
For me, working on my projects is better than trying out the latest of a million bars, clubs, and restaurant. I used to wonder what if I missed something awesome. Now I hope they have something awesome so the people who go enjoy themselves, but I know it won’t measure up to what I’m going to do, which is build and grow my projects.
For me, feeling fit and having the body I want, being able to run a marathon when I feel like it, feeling comfortable on the beach in a bathing suit is better than the fleeting enjoyment of a glass of wine.
For me, eating food I cooked myself from scratch is better than eating food at a restaurant, even if it tastes better or took less work.
The emotional reward of creating the life you want and knowing how to keep improving it and seeing how much more you love it than things you used to love lasts longer, rewards more deeply, feels more intense, and affects you in more ways than the things you don’t do any more.
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