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Big Ideas

Op-Ed: Accepting Less to Have More

"Emails, chats, texts, games, pads, pods, and clouds have become a leash jerking us out of our quiet time." Designer James Victore on getting back on the right path.

We live a screen-dominated life. We work in front of screens, we’re entertained by screens, there are screens in elevators and schools, and we carry screens in our pocket for the times between other screens. We are constantly and conveniently entertained, updated, and connected. Screens have become our closest companion, our friend, and our babysitter.
The problem is that these new media have made it easier for us to get sidetracked and distracted from the meaningful experiences of our lives. They become addictive and compulsive, and are, as embarrassing as it is to say, designed to be so. Pavlov-like, we check and recheck emails, keep up our online status and waste time with Solitaire and Angry Birds.
Heck, as I write this the cute couple at the next table are paying more attention to their phones than to each other. Do we really need to text while walking? Can you walk your dog and not bring your phone? We have become so obsessed with our tools that we feel lost without them.
These new media have made it easier for us to get sidetracked and distracted from the meaningful experiences of our lives.
There is no longer a time and a place for a phone call. The emails, chats, texts, games, pads, pods, and clouds have become a leash jerking us out of our quiet time. They demand our attention, but limit our focus, leaving us no time for reflection, contemplation, study, or the solitude necessary for deep thought and not just a temporary and shallow retreat.Our brains are being rewired. There is no longer a difference between “urgent” and “important.”  We’re learning new habits and sadly forgetting the instincts we were born with. We hand off our iPhones to toddlers, so that we are relieved from the duty of parenting. Thus our kids never learn to handle boredom. We are led off the path and, worse, we gladly pay monthly for this servitude.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the tools. Hurrah for the Future! Going backwards is not the answer. The answer is being conscious of the time spent on screens versus the time spent on ourselves. Can you create more time in your life? Time to plan and organize your life? Can you make more time to give to others? The answers are discipline, etiquette, and understanding the importance of time in our lives.Every time I return from vacation I have to ask myself, “Do I work to live or live to work?” Why work? Do we work to make money or to have a life? Or, even better, to make a difference? Are you doing what you love? And why not? For the pursuit of money? Or too busy keeping up with the mortgage or 401K so that you may achieve happiness at some later date? Does your job define who you are, or limit who you are?
The answer is being conscious of the time spent on screens versus the time spent on ourselves.
Financial security is not guaranteed to anyone and real prosperity should be living easily and happily, whether you have dough or not. Beyond being able to provide for your own needs, anything else should be given away freely — it will come back to you ten fold. Give back. Share or donate your things, your time, your energies. If you want wealth in your life, help others achieve it in theirs. I know this level of self-knowledge takes work to achieve. Most of us are too busy or too distracted to do the work.
Me? My own attempts to have more life in my life are simple. I keep a small, comfortable home. I have always had a live/work studio with low overhead that gives me flexibility to work on projects that I choose and allows access to my family and time off when I need it. My daily schedule allows time for the things I know that I need in my life like study and reflection and exercise. I try to work on projects I find meaningful and make things people won’t throw away. The money is rarely enough, but whose is?There is a lovely idea attributed to Aboriginal society that says, “The more you know, the less you need.” Accepting less means less clutter and meaningless stuff in our lives. Less distractions, less debt, less greed and craving, less servitude to work.Never settle. Never give in. But accept less.

This opinion piece comes from artist/designer James Victore, who has been ignoring the status quo and lighting fires under asses for 20+ years. You can learn more about him in this 99U interview, and follow him @jamesvictore.

More Posts by James Victore

Comments (23)
  • Carolyn Scott

    Fantastic and well-written. It’s so difficult to be able to tear ourselves away from our screens, and I find it both sad and irritating when I’m talking with someone who has their head buried in one… only to lift it up and say, “What?” because whatever was on the screen was more important than the person actually talking to them. I think everyone needs more quiet time and less screen time. A great goal for the new year!

  • Danielle Rivers

    Technology is progress, just like car, planes, the wheel. I happen to make my living staring at a computer all day but find ways to break up the monotonie just like with most occupations. It can’t be an all or nothing society. There has to be balance. Therefore, when I’m out socializing I leave my phone at home so I can give my full attention to my friends and surroundings. I work out in the morning. I don’t work on the weekends. Balance.

  • Lisa Grover

    So true that we have collectively lost the boundaries of appropriateness and immediacy. I fear for the younger generation who has no context to level set against. From my teen texting me from within the same house (of modest size) to all the phones out in the restaurant dining rooms everywhere we have lost the ability to communicate well with those we hold close while we communicate more with those we may not even know.

  • Dane Homenick

    Hell of a piece my man.  Bang on.  I was watching puck last night and chirped about something that happened to my beloved Winnipeg Jets, and when it got no response I looked around and my 3 bro’s were waist deep into their mobiles.  I’m not exception to this.  But you’re right, we need to make it a priority to say no.  Oh check out this great screensaver (second one) you’ll laugh it’s very fitting…

    p.s. hilarious sketches!

  • Blake203

    Great post, everyone should read this

  • maldives honeymoon package

    Thank you for sharing this article. I love it. Keep on writing this type of great stuff.

  • stephen waymire


  • TheJellymon

    Great article and I totally agree. Nicely put. Thanks.

  • Srinivas Rao

    Hands down one of the best things I’ve read here. I think it’s really interesting that you brought up screens because it took me back to a memory from earlier this year. I had been living in Costa Rica for 6 months and I landed at the Fort Lauterdale airport. Nobody was talking to each other because they all had their face inside their screens. There wasn’t even a place to plug in a laptop. You have to wonder what kind of impact this will have on our social skills. 

  • K-eM

    Thank you for saying it “out loud.” Most people, sadly, don’t want to hear this but it’s soooo important.

  • TALLbigHAT

    Am I the only one who had trouble reading the article for the pictures?

  • TALLbigHAT

    Hope they were trying to make a point with that, otherwise I need pills.

  • Scott Belsky

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article, James. All too often, we turn to technology (and other material goods) to “have more life in our life.” But it seems the answer is to start asking more questions of ourselves…and question the magnetic forces that seem to pull us differently than our true intentions. Wonderful contribution. 

  • Wilson Filho

    Well said. Let’s weaken that counterforces!

    Less screen and more deep thinking / perspiration!!

  • Eunice

    Excellent article! Thank you for the reminder! (logging off and taking a walk)

    : )

  • Kimberly Edwards

    Great article. Remember when we use to have conversations in elevators? Now we just look at our mobile devices…what effect will this have in the future? 

  • Dan Peck

    This is exactly what DigitalSilence is all about! 3 days without tech, or DigitalSilence Lite – 3 hours without Tech – All geared to giving you space in your life to be creative/getstuff done/ reconnect with reality/ relax and more. Its free and easy to do.

  • Alexis Adams

    I love this and will share it with my “writers” group (we talk about everything but it seems). Our conversation at our last gathering centered on these themes. Thanks so much for adding to the dialogue.

  • Nikki Hardin

    This came at just the right time in my life. 

  • lelapin

    One could see a contradiction in my sharing this but it’s worth it.

  • Emily

    This argument is outlined in detail in the book The Shallows by Jonathan Carr. A very interesting read for those who are interested in learning more about the way technology is rewiring our brains.

  • Brian Drake

    I loved this article. It has a great and simple, straight forward approach. The truth is, people lead lives far less than what they ever imagined. Consumerism is a great way to keep you on the wheel. We use objects, and technology to fill voids in our life. The purchase of these goods satisfies an immediate emotional need, much like food or drugs or sex, however, we must continue to be on the wheel to pay for these goods. Social interactions with technology are one dimensional and easy. Connecting with real humans and creating meaningful experiences are much more difficult. Wonderful article.

  • Peter

    Nice. Well said.

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