When you’re on a quest for self-improvement, there are countless books, apps, methods, etc., out there that promise to “fix” you, or help you become the best you you can be. Bullet journals, meditation apps, yoga studios, books promising to help you “get your shit together” — there’s no shortage of products, services and experiences to buy in our culture.
But what if, rather than acquire new hobbies or projects, you turned to your old interests and pursued them with fervor and commitment? What if you tried that for a whole year?
That’s what David Cain proposed on his blog, Raptitude. He wrote that the idea, which he deemed a Depth Year, immediately “caught fire.” With a Depth Year, you’re going “deeper rather than wider”:
The “Depth Year” was supposed to be hypothetical — a reflection on how our consumer reflexes tend to spread our aspirations too thin. Because it’s so easy to acquire new pursuits, we tend to begin what are actually enormous, lifelong projects (such as drawing, or language-learning) too often, and abandon them too easily.
This chronic lack of follow-through makes us feel bad, but worse than that, we never actually reach the level of fulfillment we believed we would when we first bought the guitar or the drawing pencils. Instead we end up on a kind of novelty treadmill — before things click, we’ve moved on to the exciting beginning stages of something new.
Not purchasing new things is key, but perhaps more important, Cain writes, is the recognition that “depth” has a different meaning to everyone. For some, it could mean embracing what you have and holding off on buying new toys. “To others it’s a more general pruning of waste, a suspicion of the impulse to acquire, and a refocusing on what really matters,” he writes.
The goal is go deeper with your current goals and hobbies — reading the books you already have, practicing more yoga poses rather than trying meditation for the first time, etc. — to stay the course, and “cultivate” the value of the things we’re already engaged in.
Cain writes that for him, the Depth Year helped him create “a new lens for looking at the tools and opportunities that had always been there.” Possibility was everywhere, he writes, when you learn to look for it.
This type of shift in perspective can help you overcome our culture’s constant need for more and better. Instead of thinking about what you don’t have or cannot do, you go deeper with what you already have, and can do.