Jane is a no-nonsense general physician practicing in Boston with an established clientele of loyal customers. Her assistant announces Robert, her favorite customer, who is late as usual. Jane greets him with a smile:
Welcome, Robert. What is today’s problem?
Well, doctor. I seem to have a very strong flu and, given my other ailments, I am worried it might affect something else.
It’s good you came to see me, but may I ask you why you are always late? Plus I suspect you didn’t catch this flu totally randomly. So tell me what caused it.
Robert was not her favorite client for nothing. He was always smiling and always pleasant. He grinned, and in his charming, boyish voice he answered:
Not guilty on both counts, your honor. You know how bad traffic can get just below your office! Plus it took me more than 15 minutes to find a parking space! As for the flu, is it my fault if the rain suddenly surprised me and there were no taxis to be found?
Jane smiled as she moved to the next subject.
Getting enough sleep? Exercising? You know you need to do that given your heart problems of a few years ago.
Robert was honest:
You know how it is at the office: I am working on two different projects that keep me long hours. Plus I have to take care of my mom who is sick, so I need to be there when she takes her medication. That doesn’t leave me enough time for anything else.
Jane was stern:
Can’t you delegate some of your tasks?
You know how much I like perfection. There are many things I can’t trust anyone else to do.
She went on:
And what good will it do your employer or your mother if you get sick, as has happened quite often already, and have to miss work or your mother’s schedule? And I guarantee that this will happen more often in the future.
He hesitated before answering but soldiered on:
Well, doctor, what can I tell you? I believe in fate. I will do my part and let my destiny guide me.
Actually, you let random events decide your fate for you. Because you want to do everything yourself, and you can’t, you rely on accidents and problems to prioritize things for you. You are like a little kid left to raid a candy store: He will eat everything he sees until he becomes sick instead of deciding what he wants to eat.
Robert smiled and waited for Jane to start examining him or at least ask health-related questions. Instead, she merely took her pad and started writing, saying, “OK, I am writing the prescription.” It took her about 5 minutes and then she handed it to him.
He started reading. It said:
Lack of control of own life.
1. Plan ahead
You can’t blame the rain for your flu. You should know that it rains in the fall and take an umbrella. And you can’t blame the traffic and lack of parking for being late. You know that this is always the case in downtown Boston. You should just leave 15 minutes earlier.
2. Look at the long term
When a plane undergoes maintenance, it is not flying and not generating income for the airline. Skipping maintenance once will likely not have any effect, but skipping it on a regular basis will dramatically boost the airline’s profitability in the short-term but increase the risk of a catastrophe in the long-term. Same goes for the human body: Don’t wait until it is too late to maintain it though regular meals, sleep, and exercise.
3. Assign priorities
No matter how much you want it, you can’t do everything at the same time. If you don’t decide by yourself how much time you will allocate to each activity, events will decide for you and you will be spending your time attending to crises while alienating people waiting for you.
4. Relinquish control
Your time is your most precious resource. By insisting on doing everything yourself, you ensure you control all the small details…and lose control of the big picture. To gain control of your life, you have to allow yourself to lose control of its smaller components.