In Praise of Frivolity
I’m no longer working. My calendar is empty, free time stretches almost endlessly before me and, honestly, I don’t know what to do.
While you’re probably reading this thinking how lucky I am (I am, I know), as a self-confessed workaholic the idea of not having endless to-do’s to fill my time is actually pretty weird. Scary, even.
Could I just have fun? Surely not. How wasteful. You should do all the things you never normally have time for…
Start that business.
Do your life admin.
Sort your finances.
Get ahead on your course.
That voice telling you you should be spending every moment being productive —
It’s time anxiety.
What is time anxiety?
Simply, it’s the fear of wasting your time.
It’s that feeling that you should be spending every moment being productive.
If you’re feeling guilty about procrastinating, about taking time off, or scared that it’s “too late” to do the things you want in life…you’re experiencing time anxiety.
Where does it come from?
- Unlike Eastern culture which views time as cyclical and abundant, Western culture dictates that time is linear, and a precious, finite resource.
- The rise of hustle culture which places productivity on a pedestal, essentially glorifying overworking and burnout.
- Our own quest to make the most of our one life:
In an article exploring his own time anxiety, Dr. Alex Lickerman, clinical psychologist and author of The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self, says his time anxiety often stems from asking himself questions like…
“Will I feel, when it comes my time to die, that I spent too much of my time frivolously?”
But that got me thinking…
Is frivolity so bad?
‘Frivolous’ is defined as “not having any serious purpose or value” or to be “superficial and carefree” as a person.
But just because something doesn’t have “serious purpose”…does that make it not worthy of our precious time?
I like to think that when I’m old I’ll be able to look back on what I’ve achieved.
But I’m also fairly certain I’ll want to look back on a life filled with joy, fun and happiness…whatever that means.
“If we continue asking why, like the child we once were, trying to excavate down to our most rudimentary ambition…we’ll eventually find all reasons lead to the same place, to the one core reason for living we’d sought all along, the core reason against which we measure the value of everything we do: to be happy.” — Dr. Alex Lickerman
What if unashamed, purposeless frivolity was sometimes the answer to the most central purpose of all — happiness?
Your brain needs down time. To process information, form new ideas and restore energy.
But this isn’t about enjoying some down-time to come back more productive (although that is a great benefit).
This is about bringing joy to life.
Time spent frivolously tends to be time spent making good memories, with the people that matter — That’s the point.
The fact that you’ll have renewed energy, with new perspectives on life and new ideas to busy yourself with is just a bonus.
So, instead of worrying about all the things I should be doing with my new-found time, here’s what I’m asking myself (and perhaps what you, too, should ask yourself about how you spend your free time)
- What does “time well spent” really mean to me?
- Aside from being ‘productive’, what are the things that may seem silly, or pointless, but make me smile, lose track of time and laugh?
- What if I applied the queen of tidiness, Marie Kondo’s, principle of keeping things that ‘spark joy’ not just to my possessions, but to how I spend my time?
- How can I bring playtime into every day?
I’m aiming to live more by my own definition of “time well spent”; so here’s to more dancing in the kitchen, laughing with friends, playing hide and seek with the pups, and, above all, embracing frivolity.