Which vita?

In the book Flow, Mihaly talks about the variety of ways humans find meaning and purpose. The ancients identified two typical paths toward a life of purpose and meaning. Vita activa (a life of action) and vita contemplativa (a life of reflection).

A person living a vita activa finds purpose in the doing – think of the stereotypical conquerer or high powered exec. They often set a priority (ruling, running a company, etc) and order their life toward that purpose. A person living a vita contemplativa finds purpose via slowing down to understand the self, to order the thoughts, weigh the consequences, understand the paths of those who have gone before, etc.

So which is better? It’s an AND, of course. “Action by itself is blind, reflection impotent,” says Mihaly. The doer might find herself achieving empty goals. The thinker might find himself never acting on his discoveries. It’s the integration that matters.

I was a classic doer for most of my life. I’m learning to slow down. Think. Write. Get clarity before I act, and learn from my doing. My discipline is to slow down and set my aim before I take off.

Do you tend toward a vita activa or contemplativa? Why? What discipline do you need to put around it? How do you need to integrate the other side?

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