Are You Living an Active or Passive Life?

woman hiking uphillHumans enjoy being entertained. We like watching funny, engrossing, exciting shows, movies, and plays. We love good tunes. And we enjoy watching a great stand-up comedian at work, the kind that makes your abs sore from laughter. We even love negative entertainment, things like horror movies and suspenseful scenes. We need to laugh, cry, tense up from excitement, experience emotional highs and lows, and feel the activation of our adrenal systems—whether it’s due to something happening to us in real life or to an imaginary character on a screen somewhere – because we have the equipment necessary to experience all those things, and we need to use it. Feeling sensations, emotions, excitement, even fear, then, is a prerequisite for being a healthy, happy human. An ancestral expectation.

This makes sense when you think about it. Everything that we had to do to survive, like hunting, fighting, exploring, and climbing to tall places, naturally elicited powerful sensations. And if we were going to continue to perform those actions and survive long enough to reproduce, the sensations had to be rewarding on some level. The flush of adrenaline that came with killing an antelope had to be enjoyable, or else we’d be less likely to kill again. Even simple socializing, while not necessarily thrilling or exciting, is highly entertaining because it reinforced an activity that allowed us to exchange ideas, solidify relationships, and learn new things, tips, and tricks. You want to know where the tastiest berries are? You gotta talk to someone to find out.

But look at the passive voice we use when we talk about entertainment nowadays. We are entertained, we like being entertained; we do not entertain ourselves or do exciting, hilarious things that also entertain us. We are largely passive participants in entertainment, while “entertainers” are an elite, select group of professionals who make good money entertaining us, and “entertainment” has come to signify the various mediums through which we consume entertainment – TV, Internet, video games, etc. Entertainment is very much about things being done to and for us, while we lay back and take it all in.

The numbers are pretty staggering.

  • The average American spends almost 5 and a half hours on their smartphone every day. And that’s a raw average, a mean including grandmas and grandpas, which means there are millions of people using their phones for far more than 5 and a half hours.
  • 26% of Gen Z uses their phone for more than 9 hours a day.
  • In 2021, Americans spent an average of 167 minutes watching the TV and 149 minutes watching digital video content.

That’s a ton of passive entertainment. That’s a ton of passive living.

Passive entertainment isn’t a new phenomenon. I watched plenty of TV as a kid, but I still managed to get out into trouble, run around, play, and experience life in between episodes of Bonanza and the Andy Griffith Show. Difference is kids these days aren’t playing nearly as often, teens aren’t getting their drivers licenses. There’s only so many hours in a day, and if you’re spending a good portion of the time glued to your device, you have less room for active engagement with the world.

So here’s my challenge for the day and the rest of your life: be engaged with the world and those who populate it. Get off the computer and off the couch. Find/do/explore/feel the real thing. How you do so is up to you, but I have a few suggestions.

  • Watch TV, sure, but watch it selectively. Only watch shows you really want to watch deliberately rather than just having it on in the background.
  • Use social media, but use it to engage with the world. Use it to facilitate real world, face-to-face interaction. Make an event and invite people to it. Catch up with an old friend and meet up at a coffee shop.
  • Try to post more content than you consume online. Start a blog, comment on other posts. Create!
  • Watch a movie at the cinema, or better yet, go to a comedy show or watch a show at the theater. Afterward, talk about what you just watched over coffee or drinks.
  • Join an adult sports league, or organize something with your social circle. You could even just head down to the local park for a pickup game.
  • Instead of playing video games, have friends over for a board game night, or maybe poker night. And if you’re going to play video games, try multiplayer games.
  • Read fiction. It’s passive, but you have to actively process the words and imagine the world the author creates.
  • Instead of buying all your meat all the time, try hunting. Instead of buying all your produce, try gardening. If you don’t have the option for either, go to farmer’s markets, where you can look the person who grew your food directly in the eye as you exchange money for goods and actually get to know them.
  • Get a dog (and feed it an ancestral diet). It’ll get you outside and teach you to be more present and aware of the moment.
  • Make a point to say “hello” to passers-by. Even a smile and nod will usually work, and it’s not a big commitment. It’s just a quick connection, a mutual acknowledgement of another human being. No “stop-and-chat” required.
  • Stop using porn. Have real sex instead.
  • Go on adventures. Local adventures (climb the highest peak near you, kayak down the creek, hike a new trail every weekend) and far-off adventures (adventure tourism, backpacking trips).

And this is a big one: stop mulling over that thing and just do it. You know what I mean. We all have that thing we’re always thinking about doing or trying. The thing that invades our thoughts, keeps us up at night, and even gets us up in the morning. Well, do it. Make it happen. Maybe it’s a business idea. Maybe it’ s a piece of art. Maybe it’s a girl or guy you wished you would have approached. Whatever it is, give it a shot. Get engaged!

If you’re complaining that this is all too hard, that everyone else you know lives on social media and only text messages, change that. Invite them out. Think about how much you wish you could have more real experiences and realize that everyone else probably feels the same way. Like you, they’re just waiting for someone to take charge. Be that person who takes charge.

With all that said, I have to ask: how are you going to be engaged with the world? How do you plan on living an active, versus passive, life?

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!