We are much involved, all of us, with questions about things that matter good deal today but will be forgotten by this time tomorrow — the immediate wheres and whens and hows that face us daily at home and at work — but at the same time we tend to lose track of the questions about things that matter always, life-and-death questions about meaning, purpose, and value. To lose track of such deep questions as these is to risk losing track of who we really are in our own depths and where we are really going. – Frederick Buechner, b. 1926
You’ve got to tell the world how to treat you. If the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble. – James Baldwin, 1924 – 1987
Danger has been a part of my life ever since I picked up a pen and wrote. Nothing is more perilous than truth in a world that lies. Nothing is more perilous than knowledge in a world that has considered knowledge a sin since Adam and Eve. – Nawal El Saadwi, b. 1931
But I did and it really resonated with me. We all have confidence dips from time to time and I really like this technique for catching them and turning them around.
“Being an adult is like folding a fitted sheet. No one really knows how.”
With two young children, it often feels like we are in constant motion, in every direction. Someone is always eating, sleeping, sick, tired, hungry, dirty, laughing, crying, scared or some combination of those. It is a surprising point when that starts to feel like a constant. Somehow we seem to reach stasis within the chaos. A high-pressure business environment can feel the same way: constantly trouble-shooting, fire-fighting and just trying to stay afloat. At those times and in those environments, it is critical to distinguish what is important from what is urgent.
So, make a list. Of all the things that are on your mind today and likely to be tomorrow. What’s urgent, what’s important and what’s just filler? Put the individual things filling your brain into their appropriate column and look at how you are spending your time each day. It is fixed. You are the person responsible for what you do with your time. Make it count, not just for today but for the long-term. Make sure at least 30% of your day is working on the important, not urgent items. Those are the ones you will regret not addressing and those are the ones that weigh on us day in and day out. You may be surprised at how well it goes.
To become an expert, it is said that one must practice for 10,000 hours. That’s all it takes. There is something comforting about having an actual number- as though I can tick off the hours and know I am getting closer. The truth, however, is that the 10,000 hours aren’t spent just doing a specific activity. They need to be spent practicing in a specific, deliberate fashion. One must be honing ones skills in an intentional way. Intentional.
So often it seems like we aren’t getting anywhere. We are so busy responding, acting, rushing and fitting it all in, we forget to prioritize. We forget our goals, if we even managed to write them down in the first place. We forget the big picture and where we are trying to go. As Emerson said, ‘Life is the journey, not the destination.’ but the journey shouldn’t be reactive- especially in today’s world where the demands are endless. Your journey should be proactive. Don’t wander through life looking to see if you have dropped anything behind you. Make a conscious decision each morning about where you are headed and commit yourself to getting there. Then, spend the day enjoying the path you have selected. Great things can happen but it will take focus.
It is no surprise that commitment in our society is waning. More people are getting divorced, but even more telling is that fewer are choosing to get married in the first place. Company loyalty has followed suit. 20-year company veterans are now a thing of the past and a 30 year old with 5 companies on his CV is no longer a novelty. There is no expectation that people will stay with your company for a long time and companies are struggling to determine how to appeal to and retain the best talent. It is no doubt a challenge.
On the upside, things are moving faster than ever before. Things are being (or should be) tried and tested faster, more reliably and more effectively than ever before. The fear of change is being tempered by a mitigated downside. What is the upside and what is the downside? For those in the old guard, there is an understandable apprehension: slow and steady wins the race. But, far more exciting, is the opportunity to make a difference, without the bureaucracy and endless negotiation. The opportunity to just try it and see.
Make your plan for today, this week. Be bold. Give it a go. What do you really have to lose?
“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” Sometimes it seems like we have forgotten that. Was there ever a time when businesses weren’t exploiting workers? I don’t know. But I do know that the tide is changing. And I hope that companies choose to embrace this, hold themselves more accountable and look at the impact they are having on the world around them. There are so many things going wrong -and so many of them are fixable. It’s time to make things better.
One step forward, three steps back? It certainly can feel that way sometimes. There is so much to learn in this world and it is hard to value each moment as much as we should. So, take a deep breath, collect yourself, be present to the moment and then get started.