Kill Your Guilt Gnome

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
— Gandalf

    I have a confession to make:  I used to feel guilty when the weekend would roll around and I didn’t feel like heading into the shop to work on something.  Maybe I would lounge around on a Saturday and relax, maybe I would run errands or go shopping, or maybe I would just go out and do something with my family.  But still, even when I was fully engaged in those other activities, the Guilt Gnome gnawed at me.  “You’ve spent so much money on tools and supplies and now you’re using your free time to watch Classic College Football on ESPN4 and eat Doritos?  You. Are. A. Fraud.”

    I have another confession to make:  I used to get irritated when the weekend would roll around and I had a project that I was excited about working on, but I was unable to get any time to dedicate to it.  Again, the Guilt Gnome would sink in his claws, “Why does this event have to be on a Saturday?  You work all week and can’t get into the shop and then on the one day you have free, someone else steals it away from you!”

    Well, my friends, I’m happy to report that the dastardly Guilt Gnome no longer has much affect on me.  Oh, sure, he still shows up from time to time and tries to drag me down, but I’ve taken away all of his power.  How did I do this?  Quite simply, actually.  I neutered the Guilt Gnome the very moment that I came to this realization:  I was being a complete jackass.

    Here’s the thing:  life is not a game that can be won.  Life is not about reaching any particular destination.  Life is not about to-do lists, agenda items, optimizing your stock portfolio, or getting those drawers dovetailed by Sunday evening.  The thing that we call “life” is nothing more than a messy conglomeration of all of our experiences, both good and bad.  When I was off doing non-woodworking activities during my free time, I often wasn’t enjoying them.  I was sleepwalking through them while the Guilt Gnome ate away at my mind, making me feel guilty, grumpy, or both.  I was missing out on those experiences.  I was missing out on my life.  In my opinion, that’s the classic definition of a jackass.

    Do you have your own Guilt Gnome riding on your shoulder and whispering in your ear?  Well, have no fear, because there are a few simple steps that you can take to rid yourself of him for good.  One of the core thought processes that gives the Gnome his power is the idea that “I don’t have any time to dedicate to my woodworking.”  I’m happy to report that this is absolutely false… you have more time than you think.  Take one week and tally up all the time you spend mindlessly watching TV, snacking, and surfing the internet.  I bet you’ll be amazed at how much time you actually have available for your hobbies when you reduce the amount of time you spend doing mindless activities.  Take some responsibility for your time!  If woodworking is important to you, you’ll find a way to get shop time; it’s all about priorities, really.  If you complete this self-reflection and find that woodworking is still your lowest priority, then maybe you aren’t as interested in it as you thought.  There’s no shame in that; it might be time to find a new hobby that’s more worthy of your time.  Once you take control (and responsibility) for your time, you’ll take control of your life.

    While taking responsibility for your time is important, it’s equally important to stop making excuses.  You didn’t make any progress on your project today because you chose to spend your time doing something else.  It’s nobody’s fault but yours, so turn that frown upside down and stop being so grumpy.  Oh, you only got an hour in the shop this week?  Who cares?  If you’re a hobbyist, woodworking is only one of many experiences that make up your life, so appreciate them all equally.  You’ll get more time next week.

    In the immortal words of Bobby McFerrin:  don’t worry, be happy.  Go with the flow, manage your time wisely, and kick that Guilt Gnome out of your life.  The world becomes a better place when we all minimize our personal jackassery.