Saturday, January 18, 2014

Course Correction


“Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.”

Gandhi

“An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.”

Orlando A. Battista

“How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.”

Benjamin Disraeli

It’s been said that 90% of what a space shuttle does is course correction.  In geometry or drafting, we learn that the slightest deviation off course can lead us far away from our intended destination.  The example given is that if I am walking in a particular direction and I unintentionally veer slightly and continue in the new trajectory, then I will end up in a completely different place.  This week I veered off slightly.  I haven’t done a radio show or walked in three days.  I also haven’t kept up with all the reading I’ve committed to doing.  I need a course correction.
There are two things that are not a necessary part of course correction: beating myself up and blaming others.
Beating myself up has often been the way I’ve dealt with disappointments.  I’ve learned, however, that there’s no point in becoming angry with or belittling myself.  It doesn’t help and may in fact contribute to the problem.  It may perpetuate an unhealthy self-image of one who never reaches his or her goals.  It is a form of self-sabotage and it’s very deceptive.  It appears to be correcting us, but it’s really keeping us tied to the same old behaviors.  I can stay in my self-made prison or I can move on.  I have the key.
Blaming others is even more insidious.  At least when I’m beating myself up, I am recognizing that I am the problem.  Blaming others, however, keeps me from accepting any responsibility.  I can blame my kids, God, the government or the neighbor with the crying baby.   In addition to being irresponsible, I open myself up to an unwarranted anger and a sense of self-entitlement.  I say, “I will not do my work until everything and everyone does exactly what I want.  I will wait until conditions are perfect!”
There is only one way in which conditions will be perfect – when I make them perfect by ignoring all distractions and doing my work.  My lack of production is nobody else’s fault.  I made my choices.  No one else did.   Perhaps my choices were even good ones and perhaps even preferable.  For example, I had good reasons for not walking or doing my radio show on the first two days.  On the third day, I simply chose not to do these things.  I was tired and I chose not to do them.   There have been other days when I was more tired and I chose to do my work. 
Yesterday I chose differently.
Yesterday I chose not to follow through on my commitments.
Please note that there is no regret or recrimination behind those statements.  There is no emotion.  They are just facts. 
I also recognize, however, that if I continue with those behaviors I will reap certain consequences.  If I correct my course I will reap certain rewards.  These are also facts.  This, I think, is what Steven Pressfield means when he warns of the danger of putting too much of one’s self into the work.  Yes, doing my work heals my heart and brings me peace, but those are rewards of doing the work, not the goal.  The goal of doing the work is to do the work.
I’m writing because it’s my job. 
The problem with many people is not that they are working too hard or not hard enough.  The problem is that most people are working on the wrong things.  We are working on things that have little or nothing do with why we are here and why we were born.  This problem is not insoluble.  I just need to get started and Keep Going…and correct my course.