I read Seth Godin’s post today on all the things that someone can do that are better than TV. In the past I’ve also read Clay Shirky talking about the cognitive surplus – and indeed fully bought into it. It makes sense to buy into a thought process that encourages productivity.
On reflection though, I’m not sure these mantras are necessarily as healthy and fulfilling as the authors suggest them to be. For the majority of intelligent people, there is a desire to fulfil potential and somewhere along the line there has been a universal acknowledgement that productivity = fulfilment.
There is no doubt that satisfaction comes from a sense of achievement. Ticking off a to-do list creates fulfilment in many instances, as does making the most of your passions.
Is there a danger though that when we don’t feel like performing a variety of tasks based around our passions, that we feel a sense of failure? And are these thought processes actually creating a form of status anxiety amongst people who want to achieve and try their best – but simply can’t ‘produce’ 24/7?
Watching TV isn’t bad. Switching off isn’t bad. Each of us is different and we need to find the balance between what we feel we should achieve and what our body and brain are telling us.
Recently I found myself running around frantically. I wanted to see the best films, theatre, art, music before anyone else. I wanted to know everything about anything. And then I realised it wasn’t making me happy. I love going to Arsenal football club and watching the games – but, taking my lead from the likes of Clay Shirky, I began to feel that I should be conducting interviews with fans, writing blog posts, getting involved with supporters groups, creating banners for injured players – rather than just going for a few pints with friends after the game. And when I didn’t, I felt bad.
So whilst productivity is important – I think it needs to be tempered with some reflection on what truly makes you happy. And if happy is sitting on the sofa watching crap TV – then go for that. Cognitive surplus or not cognitive surplus.