I am a “pleaser”. Not a total pleaser, but I don’t like to let other people down, so I say “yes” to things when I should probably consider whether or not I’m really committed to them. In other words, I find it hard to say “no” to someone.
Another reason I find it hard to say “no” is that I actually want to do a lot of stuff. Doing stuff is fun.
Yes, I want to go skiing with you. Yes, I want to build a thousand cranes. Yes, we should write a book together. Yes, I want to go out and see that band. Yes, that web site sounds awesome, I’ll help you build it. Yes, I want to learn Objective-C so I can write an iOS app. Yes, I want to learn to play piano. Yes, I want to blog more often. Yes, I want to focus on my family. Yes, I want to clean-up the yard and plant a new garden. Yes, I want to get up early and go to the gym everyday. Yes, I want to learn to be a better cook. Yes, that’s a great business idea, let’s do it! Yes…yes!…yes!!!!!…YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!
Everyone of those things above is something I really want to do. In the last three months, I’ve told myself I was going to do everyone of them, but the fact is that they’re not all going to happen.
I have a friend, Marc, who is an inspirational and motivational type…always ready with some wisdom on how to move closer to one’s full potential. Once he read me a quote which I wish I remembered exactly, and went something like this:
The world let’s us be exactly who we want to be. If you are a couch potato, that’s because you wanted to watch TV more than you wanted to go to the gym. Nobody forced you to be a couch potato. The world gave that to you because you wanted it.
Naturally, this doesn’t apply to everything. I really want to be be taller and have better jumping ability so I can dunk a basketball, but that’s just not going to happen, period. I also really want to be filthy, stinking rich, but just wanting it isn’t going to make that happen…I would have to work for it, and even then, it might not happen.
So, there are limits to Marc’s emergent way of thinking. Although, everything on the list above is eminently doable, and none of them are beyond my control. Why should I think that, quoting myself from above, “the fact is that they’re not all going to happen”?
In fact, if experience is any guide, I would assert that none of them are going to happen! Why? I’m not sure…let’s explore that together because for these things to happen, then something needs to change.
For one, there’s just too much stuff on the list. It all might happen, but not if I try to do them all at once. I’m going to have to make a choice about what I’m going to do now versus what I’m going to do later. In other words, I’m going to have to do the opposite of multi-tasking: focus. Multi-tasking, in this case, is effectively the inhibitor…it’s the way to get nothing done. (Note: this is effectively the Swarm development methodology I’ve advocated.)
Then, there is the hand wringing question of which to do first. Oh boy, the challenges of choice. Should I do this? Maybe that would be better? Oh, no…what to do?
For me, there are two paths ways out of this maze. Because, trust me, I know from experience…figuring out what to do a labyrinth from which you might never emerge without a clear way of thinking about it. These methods are not mutually exclusive…in fact, I often do them simultaneously.
- One thing I do is say, well, look I want all of this stuff eventually, so I might as well just pick something and get going. In the long-run, they’ll all get done, and it doesn’t matter which I did first. And, if I waste all my time trying to figure out what to do first, then it’s just going to take longer for them all to get done.
- The other thing I do is think carefully about what I really want, and by “really want”, what I mean is “what are my goals in life”, and by that I mean, how do I want my life experience to be at a certain point in time? For instance, if this summer I want to enjoy the backyard, then prioritizing the new garden might make sense over starting piano lessons.
I’ll be honest, there is a pitfall to doing both of these things simultaneously. I find that lots of times I start something (following the first approach), but then I think about it some and realize that it isn’t really getting me what I want, so I stop. Doing this is hard, and sometimes it lets others down, but it’s important to be clear.
If you think about it, this is really just another form of choice. Hmmm … perhaps the key is actually making choices.
Ha! I just laughed a little to myself that my exploration has led me to that conclusion because it connects to peculiar event in my past.
In my early 20′s I worked as the program director at a children’s summer camp. At the end of the summer, one of my bosses, Neil, gave me a coffee mug as a thank you gift. On the mug was a quote, which seemed to me like a really corny sentiment, and I was never sure if he gave me the gift out of seriousness or irony. Was this gift a nugget wisdom from an elder? Or, did he find it a the dollar store and thought the quote was so goofy that it would make a funny gift.
I’ve kept that mug for approaching 20 years for the very reason that I was puzzled by its meaning.
Greatness is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but sail we must, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.
Maybe the universe is trying to each me a lesson that is finally getting through.
I’m gonna be honest with you, though: I disagree. I think the lesson I’ve learned in the last 3 months is that direction is important. I’ve learned that I need to spend more time thinking about “what I really want” because expending a lot of energy to move in the wrong direction leads to dissatisfying outcomes. It’s like that another well-worn expression, “be careful what you wish for”.