Make Space

A few months ago, I wrote an article called “Where’s Your Attention?”. In it, I talked about a belief I’d held for years that life’s successes are buried like needles in haystacks and we’ve got to hustle through every opportunity we encounter to determine whether it will yield what we want.

I don’t believe this anymore and I’ve been able to slow down considerably as a result. Now I’m ready to take it a step further. Not only should I keep my activity level reduced to what I can handle, I should keep it to less than I can handle.

There’s a sweet spot in my schedule where I feel like I’m busy, but it’s fun. That’s the point where I’m as busy as I can be without going insane. I’m proud to have been idling in this spot for a couple of years now instead of overworking myself.

But here’s the problem with this sweet spot — it’s too full for surprises. Busy as I can handle is a state where I dictate every activity in my life. I fill it up, I make commitments, I’m in control of my time. And because I control every minute, nothing else has room to intervene.

If you’re a control freak like me, this probably sounds appealing. Why do I want room for unexpected interventions? Why not let myself decide how my life is filled?

Because my imagination is limited. And if I fill my time with comfortable baby steps of my brain’s invention, there’s no room for BIG THINGS. Serendipitous things. Earth-shattering breakthroughs.

To get big things, I need room. I have to make space.

There’s an illogical part of me that sees big things all the time. It’s a quiet part in the back of my mind, and it doesn’t operate in baby steps. It doesn’t schedule things or set interim goals. It likes to show me where I’m going, but it doesn’t say anything about how I’ll get there.

This part makes me nervous.

And, if you’ll remember from last week’s article, things that make us nervous are compass needles. If we want progress, they guide the way.

So, I’m making space. My new job let’s me work a compressed week — Fridays off. And I’ve given up doing side work for other people. I’m hoping if I remove the known opportunities from my schedule (those defined by others or by my baby-step brain), then unknown opportunities will have room to enter.

This experiment goes against my personal status quo. What about you? Do you make room in your life for the unknown? Do you reserve space in your schedule for blind faith? I’d love to hear about it in the comments, and I’m sure I’ll have more to report in the months to come.


Photo by yours truly (Berlin, 2005). Sean, it’s been 7 years since we’ve been in Berlin… let’s get on that.

© 2012 Sara Martin
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Filed under Creativity

10 responses to “Make Space

  1. I totally forgot to mention in my post — check out this article about service versus product-based business models. The author included a quote of mine!

  2. Perfect post for a day in which I was tempted to begin scheduling EVERYTHING for the weekend. Thank you for the perspective. Now let’s see if we can act upon it :)

  3. Adan Akerman

    This is great. I totally agree: you absolutely must leave space, both in your time/schedule as well as in your physical surroundings. A clear work surface (and an empty trashcan for the failures!) pull me in and invite me to productively spend that free time I’ve left for myself.

    It’s too bad I have a hard time maintaining clear work surfaces… something to work on.

    • Yes! I feel like this maxim works in so many arenas. Physical space, like you mentioned, definitely.

      The other that comes to my mind is conversation. I’m an energetic conversationalist, and I tend to jump from one topic to the next with no silences. I’ve been trying to leave more silent time when I’m talking (especially in a group discussion format), and I’ve found it leaves more room for quieter people to contribute. Definitely makes for better conversations!

      Thanks for your comment.

      • Adan Akerman

        Always a pleasure, of course.

        Conversation, totally. My social nerves impell me to do the opposite, which benefits none of the parties involved. Yet it’s such a hard pattern to break. Time, time, time.

  4. Estelle Ford-Williamson

    Congratulations on being picked up by another good blog!

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