Like most people I know, I struggle with taking to much on, saying yes before I weigh the option, overcommitting and overreaching.
I’m learning by trial that I can only move, create and produce at a rate that is natural for me. Sprints are okay as long as there is intermittent renewal.
When the pace all flow and no ebb, it’s something like taking a jet from LA to New York and claiming you traveled the entire USA. Zipping by every state between LA and New York at 575 mph is not the same as experiencing each of those states.
When we try to do it all, we bury ourselves with speed. And thus, we fly by a lot of things we’d like to experience in order to get something else done.
You and me both instinctually know that trying to do it all is not possible. We must find an alternative way to travel through life rather than at one blistering pace. Otherwise, we accumulate handsome accolades, stack up our resume, crown ourselves ultra-productive, but end up passing by everything — living without ever experiencing.
Here are three considerations on how to NOT do it all.
1. Focus on the process over the outcome.
In the West, our sport culture focuses heavily on who wins. This posture towards winning has sent us into a frenzy — all we think about is winning.
In other words, everything up until the outcome of a match is considered drudgery. This inevitably speeds up life and influences us to to try to rack up as many wins as possible — because “winning is everything” right?
In his book, Practicing Mind, Thomas Sterner highlights an American archery coach who once pointed out that the biggest problem he faced coaching the American team was that they were heavily focused on their scores — result oriented. They viewed everything leading up to the outcome as a means to an end. In contrast, the Asian teams were process oriented — consumed by executing the technique that led to the best possible outcome. They believed that the result was a natural by-product of a well-executed shot. For this reason, the Asian teams were very difficult to beat.
In our own lives, focusing on the process — and valuing the execution — instead of rushing to complete and conquer everything typically produces a better result with less stress.
This pivot — from result oriented to process oriented — slows us down and helps us be in the present moment wherever we are.
2. Challenge arbitrary defaults.
Many of the defaults that heave us into a murderous state of hurry are not laws, but arbitrary defaults invented by humans.
From education to workplace habits, to geographical choice of living, to the amount of money you need to make to be happy, to buying a home versus renting a home, there are all kinds of arbitrary defaults we have accepted as a consensus reality.
Austin Kleon, Author of Show Your Work, Tweeted this a while back:
“Young folks: Forget New York City. Forget San Francisco. Forget Austin, Texas. Stay out of debt, live somewhere cheap, make something happen.”
This strategy — challenging arbitrary defaults — challenges us to define our own success blueprint rather than simply following societal norms out of convenience. When we feel like we are living in a time famine trying to do it all, examining our commitments born from arbitrary defaults can help us jettison the unessential and get our lives back.
Remember, even when we achieve success by someone else’s metric, it’s still a mark of conformity.
3. Be a master curator.
Traditionally, a curator of a cultural heritage (museum, library, vintage archives) is a content specialist responsible for acquiring hand-selected pieces and making sure these items are well-cared for once possessed. In other words, a curator by traditional definition is ruthless in what he or she allows into the venue. By adopting this posture, the curator ensures that only the essential enters and everything else is denied.
It would be wise to treat our personal lives in a similar fashion.
The convenience of input into our lives makes this very difficult — we can be plugged in all the time. This current of information both digitally and physically can cause an illusion — a false reality — that we must try to do it all because we have access to it all.
When there is no filter on consumption, every idea is plausible. There is no shortage of creative ideas, but there is a high-demand for those who champion the creative idea to execution.
We need to become master curators of our own lives. Otherwise, we flood our minds and hearts with far too many possible options. Ironically, trying to do it all leads us down a path of chronic indecision which in the end, is worse than making a bad decision.