This is part of a series of “Balance” posts that will treat the subject of balance from a transdisciplinary perspective (for more on this, see the end of the first and second posts). It’s not about work-life balance only, but about the many decisions that modern world citizens have to evaluate today. I hope these discussions help you determine where you need to be on the spectrum to find your own inner truth.
To be honest, this is one of those questions I need a lot of help on right now.
I’ve come pretty far on accepting myself, and I still veer in and out of both auto-pilot and overthinking mode, but this is the one that I’ve been trying to grapple with for the past several months, without much resolution.
The big question haunting me, as I am now free of the daily grind of obligation to a desk job, is how to focus on what I want to achieve in a way that both suits my personality and gets things done. Without the external motivation or threat overhanging my work, how do I set goals and motivate myself to accomplish them?
The pitfalls I see, and do feel free to contribute your two cents (or $20!), are in 1) getting too focused on one outcome, or 2) being lackadaisical. While being focused is usually considered a positive attribute, associated with determination, results, and making progress, what comes of taking this to an extreme?
Too Much Focus on One Outcome:
- Missing out on other opportunities
- Not taking care of other parts of your life
- Disappointment if goal not attained
The biggest of these is missing out on other opportunities, which happens unless one has a certain openness to experience, which interestingly enough, Wikipedia tells me is a whole field of study in Psychology.
As a multipotentialite, perhaps this scares me more than it does the average non-multipod. But with so many fascinating things happening in this world, it’s hard not to want to do as many of them as you can, right?
Second, focusing one one goal may well take attention away from other crucial duties such as relationships, exercise, and maintenance tasks. Don’t want to make a million only to learn that you’ve alienated your spouse, or gained 30 pounds and now have a chronic condition, or neglected to pay your gas bill, do we?
Finally, bitter disappointment if the one thing you’ve focused all your energy on for the past 6 months, or 6 years, doesn’t happen. Some may see this as a mechanism for fear to hold me back, and it might be. But I think that it’s important to acknowledge that 1) there are factors out of your control, and 2) you may not have set the best, most accurate, most relevant type of goal. Here are my two personal examples.
Acknowledge…drawbacks to focus
First, who has ever tried to prioritize finding a life partner? Yeah, silly, right? (So maybe this is an example for both drawbacks…)
I know from personal experience that you can’t count on something that involves something out of your control, such as meeting the love of your life. It’s a mixture of chemistry, timing, attitude, effort, and of course, openness. Only the last two are in your control.
I spent a couple years cycling in and out of putting targeted effort into dating, and being open to all types of people, with nothing to show for it at the end except a lot of first dates, several story-worthy, awkward ones, and a few really nice second dates. But no match.
So is the best strategy for finding your mate focus? Or openness? I’ll let you be the judge. (I just know that it’s not OKCupid, for me!)
Second, setting a goal that is not the most accurate or relevant, or realistic. This must happen to every entrepreneur out there. Aim for 100 products sold on the first day, 500 subscribers to a newsletter, 1,000 Facebook likes, whatever it is. But then as the intrepid adventurer, I realize I need to research different marketing methods, or go through another round of editing… and it turns out 6 months to publish a book may not have been so realistic.
It must be time to reflect, analyze, & evolve into a better goal-setter.
On the other side of the spectrum, you could have not enough focus… and while openness may be considered a good trait by some, associated with characteristics such as objectivity or being open-minded, what might come of taking it too far?
- not challenging yourself to accomplish what you might
- being fatalistic about things that you could actually influence
The first outcome hearkens back to another Balance post, and I realize it’s definitely a fine line.
How do you know if you need to be a stern taskmaster and spend every evening for a week at home tinkering with your website, or whether you need to spend 3 evenings a week going for a walk, letting thoughts settle, getting fresh inspiration, and exercise to boot?
I asked Catherine Caine of CashandJoy.com to help with this question, and it turns out she has a whole system, called One Goal At A Time, Sheesh (TM), which gives “first dibs on [her] time and focus” to one goal, while allowing for flexibility to accomplish other urgent or client-centered tasks.
She sums it up well thus:
“As long as I stay on track more often than not, I can have progress AND flexibility.”
I think the keys to this are self-awareness (when do you shirk/ when are you challenging yourself?) and practice (reflect, analyze, evolve, once again!)
The second result may be more about my own prejudices, but again, let me know what you think:
People who are too fatalistic annoy me.
“I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”
“The Universe will provide.”
“There’s a reason for everything.”
Sure, there might be a germ of this sentiment in those who are “open to experience,” but they don’t leave it at that. The successful ones know this:
So where do you fall on the continuum of focused <——> open?
In which direction are you hoping to move?
And how do you plan on doing it?
Share in the comments!