Crossing the Thresholds

Earlier this week I posted on having a “different center” – being eccentric. It’s clear enough that we should give ourselves to those things that are more meaningful. We want our lives to count. To actually move that from wishing to reality, we need to make daily choices in line with whatever worthy end we’re pursuing.

This leads me with a simple question: “Why is it so difficult?”

Each individual choice is easy enough, but as a whole, why do I find this so challenging? Certainly some of it is the human condition. As the Apostle Paul says, “The very things I don’t want to do, I do” (Romans 7) and I certainly avoid doing those things I want to do, too. Why?

If you remember my last post, you’ll recall that I just finished Living Into Focusby Arthur Boers. He followed up the discussion on fundamental and daily decisions by talking about thresholds. Quite simply, we have a hard time living a focused life because the thresholds for doing something meaningful are much higher than the thresholds for doing something relatively insignificant.

That’s why I’ve started blogging for the third time. I kind of like writing. I love that writing helps me clarify my thinking. It’s what Boers calls a focal practice. This is an area where I want to grow – and I believe it’s a worthy foundational decision, but too many times I make poor daily decisions that prevent me from actually following through with blogging and, more importantly, processing some of the great stuff I read.

Let’s get back to thresholds – obviously I’ve got some work to do on this staying focused, eh? The threshold for writing is high. I need to get some quiet at home – not easy with three kids. I need to organize my thoughts – not easy with my brain. And then I need to put fingers to keyboard to make it happen without embarrassing myself – also not easy. That’s a high threshold.

Let’s consider something less meaningful. Flopping on the couch and disengaging my brain while I scroll through Netflix and ultimately settling on Arrow if I’m feeling frivolous or Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary if I’m feeling like a smarty. Either way, it’s easy. Sit down, click the TV on and let Ken or the Oliver Queen do all the work. Low threshold.

Boers cautions throughout Living Into Focus to beware a facile acceptance of technology. He’s not anti-technology. Rather, he encourages a wise use of it and this is where it all comes together with the thresholds. He urges the usage of technology to lower the threshold on significant practices and to raise it on more trivial practices.

For example, we just moved into a home with a great backyard with a nice shady tree. I can see myself reading and blogging here regularly. It’s delightful – or it will be when the re-seeding and the fertilizing (manure!) is done. The threshold is being lowered. Reading and writing can be a pleasurable experience.

As far as my time wasting tendencies on Netflix? Perhaps I need to set some self-imposed parameters on getting a blog post done before I watch. Or blocking it on my computer so I don’t watch things at times when I should be studying. You get the idea.

In short, make unproductive easy things harder and meaningful hard things easier – and don’t be afraid to use technology to do so. If you’re going to run a marathon, get good shoes. Let technology serve you, don’t serve the technology. But that’s a whole other issue.

For now, how are you making meaningful things a more central part of your life and making it easier to do them and how are you making those short term distractions and actions that may be easy, but lack significance more marginal in your life?

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