“What was the highlight of the day?” The three of us sat on a small rock pedestal atop a 600-foot wall in the Cascades mountains of Washington State. My guests had signed-up for a one-day rock climbing experience to focus on, well, their “focus” really. So there we were 600-feet off the ground, we just spent 4 hours rock climbing up this wall, invigorated by the experience, feeling the “mountain high” of the total experience and the guest responds to my question: “The highlight of the day was being completely and totally unplugged from devices.”
I paused and took that in. They did too. The highlight of a “bucket list” experience was being unplugged. I have to admit that it wasn’t the response I expected. The guest went on to relate that it is rare for him to have the opportunity to focus on one thing at a time for extended periods of time. That when he is able to focus on one thing he frequently distracts himself by further researching or exploring the topic and inevitably grabbing his phone or laptop for further clarification and sending himself down the rabbit hole of the web.
When I asked for a little clarification as to why it was valuable for him to unplug the explanations poured out of him: opportunity to breathe and focus on one thing, undisrupted creative thinking, chance to connect and have deeper and conversation with his business partner (the climbing partner that day)…he had no shortage of responses! After a long pause he said, “I feel more authentic, less scattered, like I am who I say I am. I am living my values a little bit more”. Wow, well that was clear!
Much has been written and research continues to explore our collective thirst for connectivity: the why behind our behavior, the benefits and detriments as a result, the impact (positive and negative) it has on our communities large and small.
I can offer no empirical evidence to the benefit of a technology sabbatical only anecdotal evidence of the benefits. Would a sabbatical benefit you? How long is enough? My guess after watching hundreds of guests go through this similar experience: enough time to move beyond the “ghost” phone vibration in your pocket, enough time to escape into something else entirely, enough time to feel the draw to check your phone or research something and make the conscious decision not to, enough time to realize how deeply engrained your reactions and responses are to connectivity and engage without it. Just a sabbatical: a few hours, a day, a few days, the weekend…
I am not a luddite. Our connectivity offers us amazing things. But, I do frequently experience the full engagement in life that a technology sabbatical can offer. What opportunities are you missing in your personal or professional life as a result of hyper-connectivity? It is easy to examine and explore the apps, networks, and tools available to increase our connectivity? What about the inverse opportunities? The opportunities we miss by looking at the wrong target, the wrong map?
Put the phone in the drawer for a few hours. Give yourself the gift of being present in the moment without connection. Who knows what will happen? Maybe everything, maybe nothing, maybe both.