My dad taught me that there’s no point in doing 50 things today if I don’t do any of them well.
It has always stuck with me that I would have to say no to something or if it’s easier to think about this way: what do I say “yes” to today? If I attempt 50 things I will say no to all of them and I hate the thought of leaving today having accomplished just about nothing. I really thought everyone knew this sort of thing because it was normal in my home, but that’s what everyone thinks coming from the homes they come from I suppose..
As I’ve had some decades to watch the actual effectiveness of the lives of people, I have come to the conclusion that most of us are not really that effective due to one thing: poor time management.
When I met Erin I realized that though her home was decently structured by a well organized mother she herself hadn’t really learned how to manage time. She seemed to spend every day simply doing too many things. We look back and laugh about it now, but Erin is a people person and tends to have trouble saying no. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself… in fact it’s a fairly normal issue if you love people but certainly a very manageable one.
The first time I went to Erin’s place in Calgary at a time she arranged (she lived with 4 other girls), she herself was a half hour late. Why? She was picking up everyone else we were meeting. She apparently had been doing that for some time and I couldn’t wrap my head around why she would? I remember saying to her a little later in our relationship (like two days later) “Why are you driving people around the city on your own dime when some of these people think a life-goal is working at 7 Eleven a few hours a day and playing video games the rest?” It just made no sense to me. If your work ethic, lack of drive or just simply your circumstance dictates you can only afford public transit then take the dang bus!
My wife is lovely and very smart but more often than not I have to be the bad guy in our relationship and recommend turning down “Opportunity” for the sake of actually accomplishing something measurable. If you don’t have a natural energy and effectiveness meter in your brain you might want to consider changing your thought processes before burnout forces you to. To be fair, Erin has worked very hard on this particular area and now coaches other people in how to do it.
Most people I know don’t have enough time to think. From morning to night the TV or music or whatever is on and the noise distracts us and keeps our attention constantly shifting or removed from the things that eventually matter the most. Habit is what keeps us moving in the same direction until the discomfort of evaluating our choices seems to just… take too much energy.
Energy is the thing of course. Change requires it. Poor time management and the lack of evaluation pair up and kill change. As a spiritual leader I know that there is only a period of two weeks in most people’s lives when they ask far reaching questions like “Is there a God? Is there life after death? What is the meaning of my life?” This period normally only follows a tragedy. Naturally I would say that these are the most important questions a person could ever ask and yet the window of opportunity is terrifyingly narrow.
Why? One thing. People don’t have time to think. If you can’t answer these questions or have never seriously thought of them I suspect you are in the majority in North American. In fact the majority might scoff that a person is weak to even ask spiritual questions. I’m not even diving into the answers so you can’t accuse me of “religious propaganda”, I’m just shaking the tree so you can watch this one thing fall to the ground: what are the implications or consequences if you have the wrong answer to these questions? What are the implications if you’ve never even asked them? What about the big questions in marriage, relationships, parenting?
It comes back to living by default. Life with no intentionality. Living life like someone owes you something, like your problems aren’t your problems and someone else is going to step in and save you. I have never found that to be true. My dad today would snort at the thought that his life was driven by circumstance or distraction or calamity or…default. Everything he did wasn’t right but it was intentional. No one else lived his life for him and I will always respect that and set it up as my personal goal.
Default is comfortable but also very predictable… it will cost you more than you want to pay in the end. Do yourself a favour and turn everything off for a day (no Facebook, no phone, no TV, though reading a particular blog might be ok:) and use the silence to think. I know you can do it and I promise you that it will change at least one major decision you are facing right now. Perspective is everything and noise keeps our focus blurred or looking at the wrong thing altogether.
“What must I do today? Who must I see today? What can’t I miss today?”
I have lived long enough to know that when you can’t or won’t choose the right thing first,
You’re actually choosing the wrong thing.