[Day 21 of my open journal experiment] This struggle will sound familiar to you:
When you’re working a lot, creating, expressing your talents, you often feel guilty that you’re not experiencing more of life. You wonder while working, “Isn’t life all about experiences? I should go travel, have adventures, new experiences, try everything the world has to offer… I’m spending, even wasting, way too much time just working right now. I’m missing out.”
And when you’re playing, traveling, experiencing all that life has to offer, there’s a sense of guilt in the back of your mind… “I should be creating more. Time is passing me by, and I’m not fully expressing my potential, I’m not creating enough. Sure I’m having fun, but I’m losing valuable time that I could use productively to move my life and business forward.”
You’re obviously not alone. Virtually everyone I meet struggles with this dichotomy.
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to struggle with it. And just ‘being where you are, being in the moment’ might not be enough of an answer, because this dichotomy still bothers you on some level. Here’s a philosophical approach. I’ve shared this with a lot of people individually so far, and it has created some big breakthroughs.
It’s simple: these are not opposing forces at all, but rather synergistic ones that rely on each other for maximum depth and growth in each.
Let’s start with a quick definition so we’re on the same page. I define work, creation, building, etc as “expression” here. I do so because when you live and work authentically, your work, your creation is expression. It is an expression of your heart, of your talents, of your mind, of your abilities, of your full self. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a musician, or an accountant, your work is an expression of you. If your work doesn’t feel like ‘expression’ at all, you should look into adjusting your work as you’ll find greater happiness and a higher service to others when your work becomes more closely tied with expression of your talents, abilities, and desires.
Experience here is defined as what you get to do in life. Play, travel, relationships, music, food, adventures, and everything else you flow through.
Let’s integrate experience and expression…
I like to use triangles to integrate dichotomies. Recognize that two things that seem juxtaposing typically have an integrated answer above and beyond either position, but sitting on top of both of them at the top of the triangle. In this case, we’re putting Experience and Expression on opposite sites, then drawing a triangle on top of them and asking “What’s at the top?”
Intentional experiences, in addition to being there for their own sake, expand you. They make you grow. If you travel to another country, or you go skydiving, or you enter a new relationship… you grow from it. You expand your consciousness. If most of your experiences do not expand yourself and your consciousness in some way, then choose different experiences.
Creation is expression of self, and the greater the self (expanded through experiences) the greater the levels at which you can express the self. You literally have a more expanded self to create. Every experience expands your power to express and create.
So the more consciousness expanding experiences you have, the greater your ability to express, and the more of you there is to express.
What do you need to have great experiences? Sometimes, you need money. Other times you need great relationships. Sometimes a reputation, contacts, freedom, power, opportunities. All these things expand your possibilities to experience all that the world has to offer.
How do you acquire more of those powers? Through creation, through expression. As you express more of yourself and your abilities, you grow your business, your network, your abundance – as that expression creates direct value in the world and the marketplace.
So expressing more gives you more experiences. Also, if you really love your work, expression in itself largely becomes as much of an experience as an external one, if not more.
The way to grow yourself is largely through experiences; as you grow yourself, you get to express at a higher level, adding more value to the world, by expressing a higher version of you.
The way to expand your opportunities for new experiences is through greater expression, through creation of value, freedom, and abundance.
Whichever you are doing at the moment, whether experience or expression, you are not sacrificing the other, but rather enhancing both. So dive fully into your experiences, let them expand you. Dive fully into your expression and creation, let it create freedom and abundance for you.
Of course, you’ll have to ask yourself some questions about experience and expression for this to fully apply in your life… Are you having experiences that expand you? Is your work an expression of you (talents/skills/abilities, heart, mind)?
This would certainly apply to a purpose driven entrepreneur who travels the world. To a life coach who experiences deep relationships. To an artist who parasails at sunset with his best friends. To a musician who holds deep conversations over wine and cigars with his lover. To a software developer who goes to art museums. To someone whose work, at least to some extent, is an expression of self, and to whom experiences are an expansion of self.
It probably wouldn’t apply so much to someone working a desk job they hate, whose ‘experience’ consists of getting drunk at the local bar every weekend. Or to someone dispassionate about their work, whose experience consists of watching hours of mindless TV per day.
If you are living life on purpose, expanding yourself through your experiences, and expressing your expanded self through your work, then the two are already integrated, and you can know that you are exactly at the right place, at the right time, whether you are working (expressing) or playing (experiencing). And you can further integrate by choosing experiences that spark your growth, and shifting your work to be a greater expression of that inner growth.