WALKING WITHOUT A PURPOSE
Effectiveness: 9/10 Effort: 4/10 Enjoyment: 9/10
For this week’s habit I decided to walk. That’s it. I told myself that at some point during the day I would stop what I was doing to head outside. I didn’t set up any rules regarding how long I had to walk, or how far, or at what time- I would simply walk somewhere and back.
I wanted to walk, because it’s something I would never really be inclined to do. In the past I would only ever think of going on a walk if I were bored or high. And since I don’t get bored and don’t consume too many drugs any more, I just don’t go on walks. And that’s a little sad, because… you know… walking is nice.
Before heading out the door for my first walk, I decided to grab my camera and download a Neil Young album so that I could listen to ‘Old Man’ on repeat (I tend to listen to a single song for days or even weeks until I’ve completely ruined it for myself). I headed out the door and told myself I should walk for at least 15 minutes and to come back with one good picture. I started walking and then just didn’t stop. I think I walked for about an hour that first day. That might not sound like much, but for me to saunter around for an hour is unusual.
I immediately felt the benefits when I returned. I felt less over-whelmed, less stressed, I felt like an internal reset button had been hit. Without thinking about it during the walk, I somehow knew exactly what I should be focusing on for the rest of the day. I should explain that I am simultaneously moving and starting a company, which means there’s a never ending to-do list of tasks that need completing.
I already meditate in the morning which helps me start the day with a sense of clarity and purpose, but that slowly erodes by time I reach the middle of my work day. I think it’s fair to say I get about 70-80% of my work done during the first half of my work day, finding my peak productivity around 11:00am. Anything after 4:00pm is honestly just dog shit.
Now I took a lot of the walks around 3:30pm, and found that after walking I had that same sense of clarity and focus as I usually do in the morning. I didn’t necessarily work longer after taking the walk, but I felt that the quality of my work was better than usual. And if that’s the case over time, then I simply need to add walking to my work schedule.
Throughout the week I took three types of walks. I either walked by myself without a purpose, walked by myself with a purpose (i.e. going to the grocery store to pick up some Gin because I’m a 60 y.o. lady at heart), or walked with someone else.
Walking by myself without a purpose was by far the most satisfying experiences and I recommend everyone start doing more of it, if you aren’t already. It was only when I was walking by myself that I genuinely stopped caring about anything other than this walk, right now, right here. I’d saunter along, taking in the environment, choosing at random whether I would head left or right at a fork in the road.
And I think it was this spontaneity that kept the walks interesting. I never took the same route twice, and I ended up exploring areas I had never seen. I found a playground in the woods one day, but quickly scuttled away when a bunch of kids started heading there after school, because America has lead me to believe that a man by himself with a beard and camera should probably not be hanging out at the playground with a bunch of kids.
So I continued on a random path that lead me down anther wooded path, where I encountered a lady with two donkeys.
And that was the amazing thing, that because I was walking without a purpose, I didn’t know what was going to happen, so I was forced to remain present. I can only think about the things around me here and now, because I have no fucking clue where I’m going. It’s essentially another form of mediation. Whereas when I was walking to the grocery store, I tended to periodically think about the grocery store. I’d catch myself thinking about what I was going to buy, what route I should take there, etc. It didn’t feel as liberating. It didn’t feel liberating at all actually, it just felt like a task.
Now, walking with someone else is fun for the conversation, but did not help with feelings of stress or anxiety. It is a social situation, so I was not able to shut off mentally. Keeping a conversation is easy in principle, but at times I feel it takes up a lot of mental space. You are always aware that if you stop walking to take a picture, the other person has to wait for you. If you speed up, the other person has to speed up. And so on. I also wasn’t as focused on my environment, as I was allocating most of my attention to the other person.
I do however think there is a place and time for the different types of walking. I heard about a couple that walk for 2 hours every night whether it rains, snows or shines. I love that and want to implement something like that the next time I find myself in a serious relationship. But I’m now aware of how different that is to walking by yourself without a purpose. Realizing that I can use walking as a form of mediation has really gotten me excited to add a walk to my work schedule as soon as I get to Copenhagen. That rather than it being an escape from work, it is now part of my work. Rather than fight my workaholic tendencies, I’ll expand my definition of what ‘work’ is to build a more balanced schedule. And find a little more happiness.
Happy Habit Building.