Often, we don’t link the word contentment with the word growth…and anyone that has been around our group knows that we are always very focused on GROWTH. Our world, and especially our industry is filled with tag lines intended to motivate us into action, activity, drive, success….A popular business art company’s top sellers are painted canvas with the phrases:
-Hustle. The most important word ever
-Work Harder. Period.
-Hustle until your haters ask if you’re hiring.
-If your not on Forbes get back to work.
-The harder you work the luckier you get.
-Strength is in the struggle.
-No Days off.-Early Morning. Late nights.Contentment begins by learning to stop saying YES and begin saying NO.First and foremost, when it comes to time, we need to draw a line in the sand and recognize we have a choice around everything we do with our time…or allow to be done with our time.“
For too long, we have overemphasized the external aspect of choices (our options) and underemphasized our internal ability to choose (our actions). This is more than semantics. Think about it this way. Options (things) can be taken away, while our core ability to choose (free will) cannot be. So why do we not make choices? We have what is called “learned helplessness.”
This can show up in any organization…including with agents or sales people. When people believe that their efforts at work don’t matter, they tend to respond in one of two ways. Sometimes they check out and stop trying. The other response is less obvious at first. They do the opposite. They become hyperactive. They say yes to every opportunity that shows up. They try to do it all. How is that “learned helplessness”? We don’t believe we have a choice in what opportunity, assignment, or challenge to take on. So we “have to do it all.”To become what McKeown called an “Essentialist”, requires a heightened awareness of our ability to choose.Obviously, when faced with the choice between two things we want, the preferred answer is yes to both. But as much as we’d like to, we simply cannot have it all.Two of my favorite authors…Jim Collins, the author of the business classic Good to Great, was once told by Peter Drucker, the author of The Effective Executive, that he could either build a great company or build great ideas but not both. Jim chose ideas. As a result of this trade-off there are still only three full-time employees in his company, yet his ideas have reached tens of millions of people through his writing.
“We don’t build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want and then time saves itself “ Laura Vanderkam
Explore your time and options. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on. Because Essentialists will commit and “go big” on only the vital few ideas or activities, they explore more options at first to ensure they pick the right one later. They take time to figure that out.Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, for example, schedules up to two hours of blank space on his calendar every day. He divides them into thirty-minute increments, yet he schedules nothing. It is a simple practice he developed when back-to-back meetings left him with little time to process what was going on around him. CEO Bill Gates, regularly takes a week off from his daily duties at Microsoft twice a year to simply think and read. It goes all the way back to the 1980s. In other words, twice a year, during the busiest time in the company’s history, he still created time and space to seclude himself for a week and do nothing but read articles (his record is 112) and books, study technology, and think about the bigger picture.
It’s not enough to simply determine which activities and efforts don’t make the best possible contribution; you still have to actively eliminate those that do not.Getting rid of those old clothes isn’t easy. After all, there is still that nagging reluctance, that nagging fear that “what if” years down the road you come to regret giving away that blazer with the big shoulder pads and loud pinstripes. This feeling is normal; studies have found that we tend to value things we already own more highly than they are worth, and thus find them more difficult to get rid of.If you’re not quite ready to part with that metaphorical blazer, ask the killer question: “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?” Likewise, in your life, the killer question when deciding what activities to eliminate is: “If I didn’t have this opportunity, what would I be willing to do to acquire it?”When making decisions, deciding to cut options can be terrifying—but the truth is, it is the very essence of decision making. In fact: The Latin root of the word decision—cis or cid—literally means “to cut” or “to kill.”You can see this in words like scissors, homicide, or fratricide. Since ultimately, having fewer options actually makes a decision “easier on the eye and the brain,” we must summon the discipline to get rid of options or activities that may be good, or even really good, but that get in the way.”Every cut produces joy—maybe not in the moment but afterwards, when we realize that every additional moment we have gained can be spent on something better.It is easier to think of execution in terms of addition rather than subtraction. We just keep adding: more marketing, more agents, more budgeted dollar, etc. Instead of focusing on the efforts and resources we need to add, the Essentialist focuses on the obstacles we need to remove.
When people don’t know what the end game is, they are unclear about how to win, and as a result they make up their own game and their own rules. Instead of focusing their time and energies on making a high level of contribution, they put all their effort into games like attempting to look better than their peers, demonstrating their self-importance, and echoing their manager’s every idea or sentiment. These kinds of activities are not only nonessential but damaging and counterproductive.We do a similar thing in our personal lives as well. When we are unclear about our real purpose in life—in other words, when we don’t have a clear sense of our goals, our aspirations, and our values—we make up our own social games.” We overvalue nonessentials like a nicer car or house, or even intangibles like the number of our followers on Twitter or the way we look in our Facebook photos. As a result, we neglect activities that are truly essential, like spending time with our loved ones, or nurturing our spirit, or taking care of our health.