A new year provides us with the drive to start afresh; out with the old and in with the new. With each passing year I am getting closer towards a sustainable life, with less wasted time and energy and more progress.
The key to this is a realisation that what is important is not how many things are in your life, but rather how many ways do the things in your life compliment and help each other.
Staying at the top of elite sport is all-consuming. It requires 100 per cent commitment, you can’t be half in and half out; it’s a 24-hour a day job, 365 days a year. I used to throw around the phrase “grindin’ for that shine” frequently as it summed up my feelings about being tough, enduring, and training hard for hopeful future glory.
For a while, things were becoming unsustainable, the candle was burning at both ends and the sides. Undeniably, after a certain point the frustrating law of diminishing returns kicks in and the path to greatness takes a detour down the road to burnout. I found myself sacrificing increasingly more of life’s vitality in the hope of the attaining my goals.
Don’t get me wrong, sacrifices must to be made, but they shouldn’t be life consuming. The journey should be an enjoyable one. There have been times when the emphasis sadly rested solely on the destination, instead of the journey, and I was always secretly afraid that if the end didn’t justify the means I would regret wasting a huge chunk of life.
In sport, either we are winning or losing, we can’t afford to get confused. My struggle to sustain the pace and keep accelerating has pushed me to come to a novel understanding of life sustainability that I feel compelled to share with you below at this very appropriate time.
I call it Permaculture Life. Permaculture is a novel philosophy and method of carefully designing self-sustaining agricultural systems that are extremely productive, requiring very little maintenance. If done right, the farmer is no longer a farmer, but rather a food gatherer. Permaculture advocates harnessing nature to help itself in as many ways as possible by encouraging symbiosis between the species in the garden.
A few examples of this would be having plants that need shade planted under others that need more sunlight, having plants with deep roots bring moisture up for plants with shallow roots, and plants that grow on other plants for support while fixing nitrogen for them.
When we apply this philosophy to life, the emphasis is deliberately shifted from the number of things in our lives such as our job, possessions, relationships, social life, leisure activities, travel etc to the number of ways in which each symbiotically enriches the others; everything being connected.
The goal is to create connections such as having your location conveniently facilitate what you do for a living, and your leisure activities; having your friends relate to what you do for a living and also enjoy the same things you do for fun—thereby enhancing multiple aspects of your life, while ideally having a partner that can relate to your career challenges, get along with your friends and also enjoy what you do for fun. It’s about each element of life facilitating, enhancing and complementing the others.
Now we are adding new elements to our lives all the time. We need to ask ourselves whether they are enhancing or detracting from our vitality. Permaculture also provides guidelines for this. The three main tenets of permaculture life are that firstly, the new addition should be good for the entire garden; our lives as a whole, enriching the other elements involved.
Secondly, the new addition should return a surplus, meaning you get more out of it than you put in. Thirdly, in the finite space in the garden or in the limited time on this earth, would you rather have that thing or activity in your life or something else in its place? To play steel pan in your free time or take a cooking class for example.
In the permaculture gardening system, the garden is arranged in concentric rings emanating out from the center with cooking herbs closest and lumber furthest away. Imagine your house at the center of these rings. To apply this to our lives and minimise wasted time and energy we should situate our home closest to the things that we visit daily, putting our homes closest to our jobs or schools.
Perhaps we go to the grocery twice a week, allowing us to situate that further away in the second concentric ring. Thirdly you might go to the beach or airport once every two weeks affording us to situate those elements in the third concentric ring and so on.
Setting up a permaculture life doesn’t happen overnight, but in 2016 we can start by pulling out a few weeds and beginning to plant some symbiotic crops to feed us in the near future.