My Dearest Chaya,
Can you believe it’s the end of July? Poof! Another birthday has come and gone. Once again, we’re now halfway through another calendar year, and this time we’re getting ready to usher in a whole new decade. This is a perfect time to stop and evaluate our situation.
During the first half of 2019, what were you focused on? Did you start the new year with goals for yourself? Were they loose hopes and passing wishes, or did you break the bigger goals down into specific measurable steps with detailed tactical actions to ensure completion? I can always hear the famous words of one of my dearest mentors ringing in my ears, “Time invested in one area is time away from another.” She’s exactly right. I think we’ve all been guilty at some point or another of sleepwalking through life and waking up one day to realize that an entire month, year, or decade has passed us by. But for today’s conversation, let’s assume that we’ve progressed at least one step beyond that. So, we’re coherent enough to know what we want, and we have a general idea of how to get there, but actually getting there is an entirely different ballgame. Even if life throws no major curve balls your way this year, the sheer day-to-day activity can prevent any forward progress if you’re not careful to avoid this popular pitfall.
Have you noticed how easy it is to fall into the trap of busyness? It’s quite easy to stay extremely busy doing nothing more than just being busy. Managing the hustle and bustle of everyday life is very time consuming, and yet this trap is disguised extremely well as productivity. How could you recognize this trap in your own life? Here is one major clue: anything that involves just “keeping up” falls into this category, whether it’s paying bills, doing laundry, responding to emails and voicemails, perusing your favorite websites, shuffling piles of papers on your desk, or anything else that takes time but gets you nowhere. Are you investing time in arenas that will produce a payoff for you? Or are you spending time that you can’t ever get back on trivial things? Yes, some of the examples I mentioned are things that must get done, but do you really want them to be the reason that your life goals aren’t met? This is an abyss that many well-meaning people fall into, never to be seen or heard from again. Believe it or not, there are solutions to this frustrating trap. But you must believe that there is a solution to everything – if you’re willing to dig deep enough.
Here’s the deal: you can either perfect staying exactly where you are, or you can perfect getting where you want to go. In other words, you can become really good at maintaining your current state of affairs, or you can invest your time into learning the required skills and mastering the habits that will be required to move you forward. It really requires no more energy to run in a forward direction than it does to jog in place. On a treadmill, you expend a lot of energy, but you still get off the machine in the very same spot you started from. In the water, you can dogpaddle for eight hours and completely exhaust yourself while going nowhere, or you could use that same time and energy to swim the English Channel. In both of these examples, if your goal is purely exercise and calories burned, then the stationary option will certainly do the trick. But in life, it’s generally more rewarding to have something to show for your time and efforts.
I’m not even talking about laziness here. Why not? Because lazy people will never get anywhere in life – period. That’s probably not a very politically correct thing to say, but it is what it is. Everyone wants a better life, but only a few are willing to do the work to create it. The thing about laziness is that it’s a self-induced paralysis. I once read that laziness is merely a habit of resting before one gets tired. I think we all struggle with bouts of laziness from time to time, and there is no doubt that we all need rest. Everyone needs to get away, slow down, and take some time off on a periodic basis to recline, relax, and refuel. But I’m talking about real, bona fide, bad attitude, I-don’t-ever-want-to-do-anything laziness. What doesn’t make sense about our seasons of laziness is that we’re really not happy when we’re in that condition. We may tell ourselves and others around us that we’re lying on the couch endlessly because we want to and have the right to, but deep down, we’re miserable when we’re laying there, because we’re just throwing a big private (or maybe not so private) pity party. The party just gets bigger and bigger as we continue to dwell on all the things that we don’t like about our situation, rather than taking the necessary action to change our situation.
But I digress. For today’s discussion, I’m not talking about lazy people, drama magnets, or pot-stirrers. I’m talking about good-hearted, well-intending individuals who really want big things out of life but can’t seem to get there to save their life. It’s those kinds of people, the ones we love so dearly, the ones we see in the mirror every morning, who are most likely victims of the “running in place” trap. We know that if nothing changes in our life, nothing changes in our life. It’s also true that doing “more” and working “harder” aren’t always the best answers. If the efforts we’ve been attempting over and over again are not providing our desired results, there comes a juncture where we must realize that doing more of the same is only going to produce more of the same. If more of the same isn’t what we want, than we must consent to stop beating our head against the wall in front of us, and perhaps look for a different path around the wall.
Take a peek back at the past several months on your calendar. Where has your time gone? Is your schedule full of noise? Are you existing between events and months, without making any headway on your goals, dreams, and plans? The lazy, drama magnet, pot-stirrers may convince themselves that they’re not reaching their goals because it would mean too great a sacrifice of their personal time or family life. But I know way too many absolutely incredible men and women who have reached their goals while living life to the fullest to believe that boloney for one second. It’s just something non-champions say to make themselves feel better about living in mediocrity!
So, what would a flip of the switch look like in this department? What exactly would it take to release the mere maintenance activities and make the move to forward-progress-driving activities? As a business person, perhaps it would look like making client calls and working to generate new business, instead of responding to emails and “managing” existing business. As a full-time mom, it might entail seeking out enriching activities and trips for the family as opposed to the old routine of hanging out at the house. As anyone who wants to start thriving, instead of merely surviving, it may be walking away from a dead-end job and finding or creating a position that has a future and opportunities. If you’re lacking the skills necessary to make that possible, it would mean using your after-work time to plug yourself into the right resources and finding a way to strengthen your skills to make yourself more marketable.
The law of inertia tells us that objects in motion tend to stay in motion and objects at rest tend to stay at rest. So, of course moving from stationary to active will require some effort to get started. Moving from busy (running in place) to productive (going somewhere) won’t necessarily require more effort, just different effort – in a different direction – to create a very different end result.