There is no such thing as “free time.” Every day I hear, “Everyone is so busy today.” I utter those words myself when I’m shaking my head at our society’s epidemic of what boils down to a lack of commitment. The Four Agreements, which when followed really do lead to a happier, more peaceful existence, start with Agreement #1: Be impeccable with your word. I am often dismayed by how much we break this agreement (yes, me included) – canceling engagements or not showing up in the first place, because we are all “so busy.”
So, when it comes to adding in new positive activities which will hopefully lead to healthy habits, our tendency is to decide to assign them to our “free time.” I will read during my free time. I will exercise during my free time. I will build my home-based business during my free time. I will meditate during my free time. I will write down my goals during my free time. I will connect with loved ones during my free time. I will pray during my free time. I will prepare healthy meals during my free time.
There is no such thing as free time.
Nature, the universe, abhors a vacuum, even more than my dog does. If something isn’t occupying a void, the universe steps right in to fill the void. If you don’t believe me, swap out your handbag for a model twice the size you currently use. Only fill it with the items in your current, smaller bag. Watch how quickly it fills to the brim. Of course your new bag needs an extra water bottle, protein bars, and a new small insert to keep everything organized!
If we don’t intentionally create space for what we really want to do, the space will not open up. If we do find ourselves with a void in our schedule, or a space that was once occupied by that habit we are trying to get rid of, we need to immediately decide exactly how we will fill that void. If we are dumping a lousy partner, we need to fill the void before the next jerk steps in. How many of us know people who go from one negative relationship to the next? If they had built on the momentum started by taking the positive step of letting go of a negative person, by turning their energy toward a fulfilling hobby, joining a club, working on their own personal development (issues) – there would probably not have been the space for the next loser to come knocking.
This applies to other self-destructive relationships we have. When I quit drinking several months ago, I didn’t leave a vacuum open. I immediately started new habits and activities to replace the rewards I was seeking through a glass: I drink delicious teas and healthy supplements; I knit; I connect with individuals and communities who are on the same wavelength as me. Even mentally, although I don’t usually miss the alcohol at all, at the beginning of my alcohol-free life, I still had the habitual thinking at certain times of the day or week or month when a pour was a soothing, celebratory ritual. So, I began to immediately redirect my thinking to something positive and motivating: the fact that what I now drink improves my skin rather than ages it; that my body is grateful to no longer have to spend resources on processing all the toxins from alcohol; that my brain is going to retain most conversations; that I am completely available to my loved ones and I am less likely to break my commitments. Yes, even the brain needs vacuums filled (this has nothing to do with being an airhead) – and if we don’t intentionally think about stuff that is helpful and health-full, we will end up right back where we started.
So this is what I suggest you do: read my previous column, about Burning Desire. Then, create space in your head and in your day or week, in which to engage in the tasks and activities needed to achieve those goals. Finally, fill all the “free time” and headspace with these positive thoughts and activities. Note: please do not confuse this with constantly having to do stuff. If your goals include improving your health, you may need to prioritize more sleep. This may mean, scheduling earlier bedtime, which may mean earlier log-off time, which may mean simplified social schedule. You may need to download an app or recruit an accountability buddy, to make sure you schedule regular “appointments” with yourself to meditate, workout, pray, write in your gratitude journal, build your business, etc. Be intentional, and set yourself up for success by proactively filling the vacuum.
Don't let the universe fill your vacuum.
Motivational coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.