(Picture – Jarek Pelczynski through Creative Commons)
I recently returned from a five day writing and social media sabbatical. Before I began I’d felt comfortable with the knowledge I didn’t write or engage with social media for any other reason than I chose to. I was free, I chose. Nobody forced me to engage online or to write.
It was my choice and mine alone.
Or so I thought.
Much of my time away I was at my cousins house with her family. I helped with the school run. I played on the Wii. I watched DVD’s with my cousin and her husband. And I ate fish and chips in the garden under the warm sun of northern England.
It was fun. It was freeing. Social media and writing didn’t even cross my mind.
I turned to my phone the evening before I left and noticed the number of Facebook notifications. It was in three figures.
However, unlike before, I felt no compulsion to respond to them. My body didn’t tense up. There was no sigh of frustration at how many people I had to respond to.All of which had been regular occurrences before.
Then it became crystal clear to me. Before I had my break, I had been writing and engaging on social media not because I chose to. But because I had to. Out of obligation. Guilt. Fear.
I realised how much these so-called choices I made each day had stopped being choices. And become obligations. Idols. Even addictions.
I had thought I was free. I thought I made my own choices and nothing controlled me. But it was a lie.
Because I’d been compelled to check Facebook and Twitter, to respond to every Facebook notification and Twitter mention, because I didn’t want people thinking badly of me. I even got a buzz out of it.
And I had to write a book and a blog, and follow the “rules” of platform building – or else I would never grow as a writer, never be successful, and my whole life and career would be a failure. I had to keep writing to keep up with everyone else.
But then I realised something liberating.
During my time away I had successfully freed myself from this. Having stopped, I realised I was now free to decide my own destiny.
I had no obligation to anyone online. I could choose who I interacted with and responded to. If there was an opportunity which I missed somehow, then maybe I wasn’t meant to take it.
And my life wouldn’t end because of it.
I have no obligation to write either. I can now choose to write – because I love writing, because I have messages I want to share with the world and it’s gift I’ve been given. A gift which I aspire to grow in and share with the world.
I want to write books because I have messages to share, because books are the primary way I feel called to share my writing. I want to blog because I like sharing shorter insights and building community – and because it helps develop book ideas.
But I don’t have to do any of this. I can write out of choice, from a place of freedom.
And this principle applies to every area of life. I choose how much weight I lose by choosing how I eat and exercise. It doesn’t have to define me. And I choose how I spend my money, I don’t need to be controlled by it.
Every single one of us has this freedom if we want it. Freedom to decide our destiny. (you can tweet that here)
We just need to open our eyes and see what activities, habits or commitments we engage with out of duty or obligation. And a great way to do this is to simply lay down what you do most often, and take a step back. Look away from it for a while.
And when you come back to it, you may find you have more freedom and a fresher perspective.
Sabbath does this. It opens our eyes. It sets us free.
It helps us to see the bigger picture. What’s controlling us. How we’re trapped.
And it shows us how to be free.
Do you agree with me or disagree with me?
Do you believe your choices have stopped being choices?
Have you ever laid down what is most important for a short period?
How could you see the principle of Sabbath working out in your everyday life?
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