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What Do You Want to Beget?

When I was a new mom, I remember hearing the advice, “sleep begets sleep” and thinking, what a load of crap.

As it turns out, the joke was on me, because the more I tried to keep my baby awake (you know, to tire him out), the crankier he’d get. The crankier he’d get, the less he’d sleep. And, well, the less he’d sleep… the less I’d sleep.

I know, I know, it’s not always that simple. (I see you, tired mom reading this. BIG HUGS.) Throw colic or reflux or teething in the mix, and all sleep rhythms go out the window. But in my personal experience, in a normal season with no other issues or extenuating circumstances, the experts were right. Sleep does beget sleep.

Beget means to cause; produce as an effect. The word beget is inherently neutral. It can be applied to both positive and negative terms or behaviors. Ex: kindness begets kindness, but also—violence begets violence.

Has this ever happened to you …

You’re in bed, on Instagram, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. Suddenly you realize it’s 10:30pm. You meant to read a book tonight, but never cracked it open. Now you feel like garbage.

You’re on Instagram, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. You posted something an hour ago, but no one has commented. Now you feel like garbage.

You’re on Instagram, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. Everyone else is doing fun! amazing! things! Everyone else is launching new projects and taking vacations and remodeling their kitchens. You start to feel envious, maybe of your own friends, maybe of total strangers. You can’t help but compare your work, and your house, and your life to theirs. Now you feel like garbage.

Sound familiar?

When I am not careful with my social media boundaries, these are the regular traps I fall into: I waste heaps of time, I become addicted to approval, and I compare myself to everyone else. Here’s what all three of those things have in common: they make me feel like garbage.

We all know the brilliant engineers behind these apps have created them using human psychology to foster addiction. As a result, I believe it’s safe to say: scrolling begets scrolling. For me personally, scrolling also begets an obsession with approval, which then also begets comparison. Hello, cycle of feeling like garbage.

(Have you ever felt this? Tell me I’m not the only one?)

We are nearing the end of August, and I want to tell you about a different kind of begetting I’ve experienced since I’ve drastically reduced the amount of time I spend on social media.

At the start of August I joined a writing mastermind group to help myself with accountability. I agreed to write 500 words a day. A girl in my group even made us bubble charts, because, yes, we are grown women in our thirties and forties who still delight in the victorious feeling of logging our productivity in the form of a shaded bubble.

While I committed to writing 500 words of garbage each morning (in a conscious effort to fight perfectionism), a funny thing happened as a result. I have easily written double that amount each day (some days, triple!). In fact, I do not think I have written (only) 500 words once. Most mornings I am closer to 800 words. Many mornings I’ve hit over 1,000. There’s something else, too. The more garbage I write in the morning, the more I write in the afternoon. Sometimes I’ll write 800 words in the morning, and then I’ll crank out another 1100 words a few hours later.

Every line breeds another line. Every idea inspires another idea. I believe this is what people call being in the zone. It still shocks and surprises me. It feels like a magic trick that any story could beget another story. It’s been almost a month since I’ve drastically reduced my time on social media, and I feel like I just woke up from a coma. I’ve got essays coming out of my ears. I’m writing all sorts of things. I have a notebook on my desk where I am simply cataloging ideas—pieces I want to write, things I want to make, dreams I want to pursue. The list is getting longer every day.

This is perhaps my favorite kind of begetting: creativity begets creativity.

Here’s another one: I’m reading more. In August alone, I’ve read eight books and counting. At the end of July, I removed Instagram and Facebook from my phone screen, and in the evenings instead of binge watching television after I put the kids to bed, I’ve been reading instead. The more books I devour, the more books I want to devour. You know where I’m going with this. Spoiler alert: reading begets reading.

If you have never taken a social media fast, I highly encourage it. In the meantime, I encourage you to sit with this question:

What do you want to beget?

What things, behaviors, habits in your life do you want to produce more of?

I believe this is a really good question to ponder as I’ve been thinking a lot about my social media break this past month, and what my return to social media will look like. This past month I am reading more, exercising more, giving more undivided attention to my family, friends, and my work. Does being present beget being present? (In my experience, yes.)

I can’t help but think of this cautionary reminder: mindless scrolling begets mindless scrolling.

How else might be better spend our time?

Another dictionary defines beget as “give rise to” and I love that phrasing. As we finish out these final days of summer I encourage you to think about the question below.

What, in your life, do you want to give rise to?

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