The Fun, the Important, and the Urgent -- Response to Filling the Void

A friend of my blogged, Filling the Void.

I think very nearly all successful women have this crazy kind of drive. It's why we're so good at so much, but also why we're so miserable at the same time. Success is addictive and applicable to so many things (school, work, triathlons, etc.)

I suffer the same affliction. It has no easy-to-dispense cure. I imagine it's like diabetes: it's with you forever; it will eventually kill you. Yet, it doesn't have to consume you; it is manageable as long as you can enact conscious choices. I have to admit, lately I manage it as well as a diabetic gorging on a box of Ho-Ho's while binge drinking. The outcomes are almost as disastrous.

If I may offer my solution to managing OBC (Obsessive Compulsive Control): Prioritize. Categorize your life into three parts:

  1. What is urgent.
  2. What is important.
  3. What is fun.
Do the fun thing at least twice in a day. Don't put it off, either. Having fun (#3) is important (#2), but we often feel that it is something we should reward ourselves with for completing the unpleasant (aka, urgent, #1). (We can thank Behaviorists for this one, btw. I say, "Damn the Premack Principle to hell!) I insist, start your day with something fun, even if you have to get up a little earlier to do it. Also set an end-point to the fun: a time limit or some mile-marker. Sometimes, my fun thing is sleeping in until 7:30am. Sometimes, it's going to the gym. Sometimes, it's making and eating gourmet waffles. Sometimes, it's making someone else feel as miserable as I feel. (Wait, that's not fun! Well ... truth is it can be, however, it interferes with what is important, #2) Anyway, just remember that whatever you choose to be your fun thing, don't discredit it when it wasn't all you thought it would be. Stop judging it--try living it. When you're doing you're fun thing, please don't spend that time thinking about all the things that must be done. Focus on the immediate now of the fun. Enjoy it. When the fun limit is over, then you get to focus on what is important next.

Why is important next and not urgent? Good question. This comes from the Stephen R. Covey realm. (You know, the guy who writes the books about the "7 Habits of Highly Effective ___".) Essentially, when you can delineate between "urgent" (pressures and expectations from outside of yourself) and "important" (which comes from deep within your own value and belief system), you spend less time reacting to things outside of your control. Less time "putting out fires" means more time feeling at ease. I manage this part of my life by taking 5 minutes in every day to focus on and WRITE about the BAD things that happened. Then I spend 5 minutes writing about all the GOOD things from that day. Sometimes the list is heavily on one side or the other, but it helps to know that most days are actually balanced--it's just yourself that isn't! (Ha, ha! I'm only half-joking, though.)

Taking those 10 minutes to reflect ... it gives yourself the chance to remember that it's not you (or the thing) that causes frustration or unhappiness, but it's how you choose to react to those situations that defines your emotions and attitude. For me, writing, reading, and reflecting is a cathartic process. When I write the list, I read that list, and I ask myself, "Why does that bother me? Why does that make me happy?" I found this process to be the express lane to the root of the problem(s). And honestly, sometimes the root of the problem is so damn simple: I'm tired--I'm not getting enough restful sleep. Solution? Go to bed physically exhausted. How do I make this happen? Shit, I skip a class to go running if I must. Am I afraid of falling behind in class? Absolutely, but I also know that I have chosen to make the time on Saturday to get caught up at my own pace. Essentially, there's a point where you have to loudly exclaim, "I will not eternally be a slave to all that I "must" do!" Let it go and on your own terms, work it back into your life when you can.

Lastly, there's all the urgent (#1) things in life. Let's be really honest. Not everything has to be done "right here, right now, right away." Even when your boss is chanting that mantra, it often has some amount of flexibility. If it is truly urgent, sometimes it's best to recognize when it's not necessarily your urgent problem. This is where delegation or asking for help from others can really pay off. Case in point: I had a workshop that I requested handouts for. My handouts were not ready, but my class was starting in 5 minutes! I could have stood over the copier and started the process and ran back-and-forth from room to copier. (I've done that before.) Not this time! I decided that I would nicely ask if my co-worker wasn't too busy, could she take care of that for me and stop in with them when they were done? While she was doing that, I popped into the classroom and logged into my virtual web drive. I uploaded the handout and displayed that on-screen until my handouts arrived. Simple, but effective. And certainly less stressful.

It's not easy, but the OCC is a habit that can be modified. Everyone has their own approach, but most people start with moving away from the dishing out negative self-talk. Ultimately, to make change, you must be willing to choose to act. As Dewey points out, you cannot expect change by repeatedly doing the same thing. (Ah, what a shame! How easy it would be otherwise!) For me, it comes down to knowing what the Fun, the Important, and the Urgent happens to be.

How about you? Are you addicted to success? How do you address Obsessive Compulsive Control? What method do you use? I'd like to know, so comment below.


Trek 4 Fun said...

Great post here Amber... I don't have much to add but I do have much to think about after reading your post. I've come to love my insane drive for life and its experences. I like the spirit of your Blog, I'll be sure and continue to check in.