“A peacefulness follows any decision, even the wrong one.”
Rita Mae Brown
“Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward.”
“When faced with two equally tough choices, most people choose the third choice: to not choose. ”
Jarod Kintz, This Book Title is Invisible
Yesterday I bought a copy of The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck in a bookstore that sells used books. It’s one of my favorite books! One of the principles Dr. Peck discusses is the delaying of gratification. This practice, he says, is what helps us to become more mature. I imagine it would also help us to be more successful. And what is success? For me, it is the attainment of my written goals. By that definition, if I were to be completely ruthless and objective with myself, then I am not yet a success. This is not a condemnation; remember, I’m being objective. This is not negativity. This is truth.
Here’s what I have not done yet:
· I haven’t read ten books on financial growth. I’ve read two.
· I haven’t saved the amount of money I want by next September. I’m not even close.
· I haven’t published three books. I’ve published one.
· I haven’t written 365 blogs yet. This is number 349.
· I haven’t reached other personal and professional goals (which I won’t share here, but trust me, I haven’t reached them).
Again, this is not condemnation or negativity. These are just the facts. Peter Drucker, management guru says, “What gets measured, gets done.”
I’m doing it, but it’s not done.
So this morning, I made a very painful and personal decision so that I could sit here and write. It was painful because I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to continue what I was doing. It was fun, peaceful and it made me feel good and safe. It was a good thing. And it made me happy. But it also meant that I wasn’t writing. And by not doing my work, I put myself, my dreams and all good things at risk. Ultimately, I am putting my house on the beach at risk. Sometimes things are clearer. I know, for example, that I shouldn’t be watching TV or playing on line games if my work is waiting. But what if I’m doing something that is just as important to me as my work?
Michael Masterson says in The Pledge that there are three types of activities – Acid, Vapor and Gold. Acid activities are those that are harmful, such as drugs, alcohol or pornography. Vapor activities are those that are not harmful, but not helpful either, such as TV or online games or hobbies. In small, measured and purposeful doses, those can be great, but usually we overdo them. And when we finally stop, the time is gone and we don’t feel rested; we feel guilty, empty, sad and frustrated. At least I do.
Gold activities are those that give us the most genuine pleasure because they create something good and new in our lives and in the world. They might include writing blogs, spending quality time with those we love, exercising, painting, practicing a musical instrument, cleaning our home or working with a church or charitable organization. But here’s the problem, and it’s one that neither Mr. Masterson nor Dr. Peck address: what if there is a conflict between two Golden activities?
Do I spend time with someone I love or do I write?
Do I practice my instrument or do I exercise?
Do I paint or do I clean my place?
There have been times when I chose work over relationship and it was the wrong thing to do. At other times, it was the right thing to do. So what is the answer? First, there is no one answer. Here are some guidelines that have helped me.
1. Create a schedule and stick to it. This alone can prevent much of the inner conflict. Had I woken up earlier, I wouldn’t have had to delay my gratification. That however, requires that I get more sleep. That requires that I eat better and use my time more effectively. Purpose requires tremendous self-discipline and it is up to each of us to break the bad patterns.
2. If you have to defer something good for something else that is equally good, set a time limit. For example, tell the person you love, “I need to work for 45 minutes, and then we can go see a movie.”
3. Ask yourself, “Which completed goal would create the most peace in my world now and later?” In the book 10-10-10, Suzy Welch tells us to consider consequences and rewards that would occur now, in the short-term future and in the long-term future. For example, I would feel better now if I cleaned my place and then started painting. But if I haven’t done some painting today, I will feel bad tonight. And in six months if I haven’t done as much painting as I’d like, then I will feel very bad.
4. Whatever choice you make, accept it completely. Be present in that moment with that choice. Don’t look back.
5. Be willing to accept that sometimes you might make the wrong choice. If you do, it’s okay. You won’t die and you will learn something from it.
6. Remember that the Purpose of Purpose is love. And, again, while there may not always be an easy answer, a good question to ask is, “What is the most loving thing I can do right now?”
This morning I gave myself 45 minutes to write. I turned off the Internet and I just wrote. This was the most loving thing I could do. It shows my love for God, for the world, for my family and friends and for myself. I demonstrated my love for my house on the beach.
Now I’m ready to share my love in other ways. Now I’m ready to Get Started and to Keep Going…even if it’s difficult.