What’s Important, What’s Not?
There’s a guy down my street who lives alone. One morning he woke up, checked his fridge and realised he was out of anything to eat, so he thought about getting out of his house, walking 5 minutes down to the market and getting food for himself.
But since it was early morning he was lazy, so he plopped down in front of his computer, and started going through his email and daily blog reading.
A couple of hours later, a low growling in his stomach reminded him of more pressing needs. He checked the time, and split between replying to someone’s comment on someone else’s blog and going out to get food, he decided to wait for lunch time instead.
More hours passed, lunch time came and went, with him looking at the sun and wondering how hot it would be outside and whether it would be smarter to just wait till the afternoon when the sun had gone down a little.
By afternoon his stomach was positively growling and he could get his mind around to work on anything, much less sit in one place. He decided to step out but thought he should take a shower first. So off he went, showered, shaved and got dressed, and before heading out he thought he should check his email to see if something interesting / urgent had popped up.
There was nothing urgent but he opened his blog at the same time and started replying to comments a few readers had left in the last few hours. Some were angry at what he’d said, and with his pride sufficiently aroused he spent the best part of the next two hours replying, posting new articles and editing previous ones.
It was past sunset by then – he looked of his window and realised that it was almost night-time. “Maybe I’ll just go out for dinner then.”
As you must have guessed by now, he never made it out for dinner. Someone popped on IM, a friend from a different timezone, and my friend spent dinner time and a couple of hours beyond it chatting away, delaying his basic need to feed himself.
He went to sleep hungry that night, vowing not to repeat his mistakes again, that tomorrow would bring a new day, that he would do what was important first thing in the morning.
Where Are You Going?
Quite often we let distractions – some unimportant, some even less so – get in our way of what we need, what we desire and what is truly important to reach our goals. Like my friend from down the street, we rationalise and justify our willingness to focus on these distractions instead of focusing on what’s important.
The common response is to try to control our emotions and actions, to force ourselves to bend in one direction or the other. Willpower is an empowering concept but dreadfully misunderstood. There is no control or bending of will as we’ve come to think of it. We have impulses, and amongst those impulses we have an equal and impartial choice to make. There is no bias, only habit. The choice is still equal, similar to how a coin, after turning up heads 50 times out of 50, will still have a 50/50 probability of turning up heads the next time.
What happens in the past can influence our judgment but it does not influence the likelihood of any single choice. In essence, it’s not harder to do what is important or easier to be distracted because once you recognise and look beyond past habits and focus on what’s in front of you, the choice is very clear.
If it’s important for you to be caught up in life’s trivial pursuits which may seem terribly important in the present but count for little in the long run – then focusing on these distractions is the right choice for you.
If it’s important for you to eat, to be healthy, to be successful, to be loved, to be all that you can be, then you get it done first thing in the morning.
There’s no right or wrong, there are only consequences. There’s no control, only acceptance and resistance, and with that acceptance / resistance a flow of energy, a change of direction, down one path or the other.
As long you’re clear in what you want, and you can clearly see the consequences of all the choices available to you, getting from A (where you are) to B (where you want to go) is as simple as accepting the choices that lead you to B as inevitable and resisting those choices that take you away from B.
Provided that you’re willing to make that 5 minute trip down to the store.