What does your to do list look like?
Take a look at your to do list. It looks anything like mine, it’s a set of executable actions structured by project, as well as some structured single action lists.
Look closer still… How many of these projects are really core to you? The real you? How many are essential to the person you aspire to be? Do you even know who that person is? If your goals are consistently unclear to you, you will have no chance of ever getting where you need to be going, because you won’t know it when you get there. This is fine in a discovery phase, which we all need from time to time, but it will not allow you to reach a relevant depth in your development.
But let’s assume for a minute that you know pretty much what you are all about. If all is well, you have appropriately defined the roles and responsibilities of who you believe you should be. For each of those roles, you have ideally established well defined goals and objectives. The manner in which you reach these goals and objectives will ultimately define what kind of person you will become. And to get from where you currently are to where you aim to be, you develop a set of projects, which themselves break down into executable actions, things you can do now, or later. That is pretty canonical GTD.
Becoming your true self then becomes as “simple” as executing these actions in the appropriate order and dealing with the eventualities that you encounter on your way. Our so it should be.
Are you on the right path?
But look even more closely. Does your project lists really match your objectives? Will the achieving all of these projects take you to a better, more fulfilled, more you you? Or is there a significant project or even task contamination going on? If so, what causes this? Are you giving priority to projects and tasks other people put on your plate? Do you want to please them more than you want to achieve your goals? Does that make sense? If the things you do do not take you to where you believe you should be going, you have a significant problem. It may – amongst a myriad of other potential reasons – be an issue of self respect.
Your direction either feeds or alieviates your frustration
If your projects are not leading you to achieving your objectives, you are actually going in the wrong direction. Or at least not in the direction you should be going. And that is a real source of frustration for a lot of people. Understanding that frustration is simple. It all comes down to what Mr. Jobs once said to Mr. Sculley, and I’m paraphrasing here: “do you want to continue selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?” If your objective is to change the world, it must be a true nightmare to have nothing but sugar water selling related tasks on your to do list.
Your time here is short
Note that this is self inflicted punishment, which is caused by fear and only by fear. There are many different types of fear, but ultimately they boil down to this: you do not move because you believe you can’t or should not. What you need to realize is that you only have a limited time available to you in this world. Either you are in alignment with yourself, with what you want to become, or you are not. If you are not, you are not going to be a very happy person, because you are not realizing your full potential.
But what about my other responsibilities? What about the income I need to provide for my family? Well, you did not by accident become part of this family right? Your family, the fact that you have one, is hopefully one of your main life goals, because it is not, you are clearly off target.
Disengage or commit, but don’t hesitate
Your “other” responsibilities are not other. They are either part of your life’s goals, are they are not. It is really that simple. If the responsibilities you’ve chosen to carry on your shoulders do not allow you to realize at least a part of your life’s goals, you need to find an appropriate way to disengage. But if they do, they deserve your full engagement and commitment, and no less. There most certainly is the order of execution, depending on context and activity level available to you, but there should not ever be in order of priority. Each of these priorities is a child of yours, and each is as deserving.
The cost of change
Once those other responsibilities become firmly embedded as your core responsibilities, your appropriately developed goals and objectives will include projects and tasks for realizing them as well. But it will require you to do more work than you are doing now. Possibly you will even be doing more work than you believe you are comfortable with. If you want to make a significant change, you will need to do the work involved in realizing that change while at the same time taking care of all other things that are relevant for you and to you, such as making sure your kids get fed and clothed.
The obvious choice is not obvious for a lot of people
Fundamentally, the constraint of limited time forces you to either choose what you are all about, within the constraints of your life as it is, or remain eternally unhappy. Or at least for as long as you live.
Between remaining unhappy but in your comfort zone on the one hand or taking a first step on the road to profound happiness and self realization but outside of your comfort zone, working hard while trying to balance multiple, sometimes conflicting priorities, the choice often seems obvious. However, the choice is clearly not that obvious for quite a few people.
A day well spent
I wonder what is holding most of us back from achieving our fullest potential. I for one hope to find the strength to bring my attitude, my daily activities, in line with my altitudes, my goals and objectives. If I achieve that in the course of the day, that day is a day well spent.