Consider these words from Alan Watts: A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts, so he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions.
I’m a thinker. Not one of those ground-breaking scientists or a philosophical savant, but I do like to think. Maybe, a little too much. Maybe, even so much that I often have little to show for it.
I believed this was a good thing. Aren’t we supposed to use our heads, to be more thoughtful? The thinking part is easy. It requires little effort. Unfortunately, that’s where it goes wrong. If you want more than thoughts and live in the world of reality, then you must do something with all that thinking.
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…”
The hard part is work. that requires effort. It requires movement and action. Often, manual labor is looked upon as base and work fit for only the unintelligent unable to use their heads. If asked, many would rather work in an office than on a factory floor. They would rather use a keyboard than a wrench.
Working in a factory, I have done jobs that have required minimal brain power. If you repeat a process enough times, it will soon become second nature. I loved this type of work because it was a form of escapism. My brain could wander free without having to concentrate on the task at hand. Maybe, it was because the thinking was the easy part. I could disconnect from the hard labor. But even so, there was still a disconnect. Something was still missing.
To act in accordance with your thinking is something only a few can do. Imagine the possibilities if we could all do this.
What happens when I don’t have a plan for the day? I go through the motions. Of course, I get stuff done, but I also check my phone, watch a little television, piddle here, and piddle there. There is no rush, no sense of urgency, and no accountability at the end of the day.
What happens when I create a plan at the start of the day, or even better, the night before? I am focused and intent on checking off the boxes. I waste less time. At the end of the day, with tasks crossed off the list, I rest at ease knowing I made the most of it. Oh, the satisfaction if I get that list done.
But then, there are times I make the list and do not have the end results I hoped for. Somewhere along the way, I got sidetracked. I deviated from the plan. I started doing other stuff, stuff that was not on the list. If I had a quality list of items that held great importance, then I should have done those. If this is what mattered most, then I should have attacked it first.
If you want to take your productivity to the next level, if you want to get the things that matter the most done, then do the following:
Make the list. Not “a” list but “the” list of the most important items you want to complete.
Start early and get it done. If other things come up, and they will come up, add them to another list or put them at the bottom.
Wow! There are only two steps. It is not difficult, but often the basics and the simple are the things that get missed the most. There are some great resources to make your planning super-advanced and technical, but they all have the same two things in common: Make a list, and Get it done.
“Be good.” It is what I tell Alec as I’m leaving. When I said that the other night as I headed to work and left him with his grandparents, his grandmother said, “He’s always good.”
When I think about it. He usually is good. Why then do I say it? Is it a last reminder before I leave? Am I afraid that as soon as I walk out he will turn into a little monster? Is my saying it an unchecked habit that I have formed?
A few days before that I got upset with him. He made a small error. I got upset. Why? I don’t know. I could make a bunch of excuses but none of them would be legitimate. How many mistakes have I made in my life? How many of greater consequence than the one he made. When I made it, the last thing I wanted was to be reprimanded of it. The misdeed was instantly noticed, reprimands were only piling on. And I of course, hating when it was done to me, I piled on. A few minutes later, I apologized. It was unnecessary, and I was not helping the situation or him to become better. I was the little monster.
If there is anyone I hope to influence in this world, it is him. How can I help him become what he is capable of becoming? I can treat him as what he ought to be, not what he is now. Even though he is still just a child, I can treat him as a fellow human capable of making appropriate decisions. I can guide him along the way into what I believe is acceptable behavior, but I shouldn’t harangue him for every little action I perceive to be an annoyance. I need to keep Solomon’s words in mind, “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not be intent on his death.”* There is no need to engage in psychological warfare. I know what it feels like and would not want it for him. I don’t need to nitpick. I don’t want to become a nag for no other reason than to be disagreeable.
Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming. -Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
As I meditate on these words of Von Goethe, I think of all those I with whom I come into contact: those in my community, at church, within my workplace. Are we not all on a path of what we are becoming? Treat others as they were what they ought to be, and we can have a hand in helping them meet their capabilities.
I heard a conversation last week between two workers that I found rather disturbing. What was the topic? Video Games. For over an hour, I listened these two discuss the latest game they were playing. For roughly 2-3 hours every night, these two fathers sit down and play this game. 2-3 hours every night! After they get off work! The conversation only lasted about an hour before turning to other topics such as their financial stress due to rumors of a loss in employee benefits.
10 years ago, this conversation would not have been so disturbing. Back then, I would most likely have joined them in the conversation. Back then, I was one of them. I spent hours playing games. On top of that, I had a ton of financial worry weighing me down. It wasn’t the only thing weighing me down. I was also about 60 pounds overweight. When I think about who I was ten years ago, I can’t help but be filled with regret. I was drifting along with no purpose. I was wasting one of the most precious resources we are given as human beings. I was wasting TIME. Time, that once gone, can never be replenished.
Back then, I had no aim. Of course I had hopes and dreams, but I did not do anything to make them become real. Instead, I turned on the game console and allowed complacency to rule my life. I continued to play as I ate garbage and put on the pounds. My financial well-being never improved, but deteriorated through neglect. Even with a good job, I was not building for the future.
What is different between who I am now and who I was then? I started aiming higher. I started hoping for a more fulfilling life. But before I could aim higher, I had to realize I had a problem. I had to become dissatisfied with the direction, or lack of direction, my life was going. And once I became thoroughly disgusted with what I was doing, I started dreaming of ways I could make a change.
But as Goethe states, aiming higher is not enough. You need to have the ability and the perseverance to change. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process, one that may take place during the course of a lifetime. You need to develop the ability to hit what you’re aiming at, and you need the perseverance to keep swinging until you get there.
There is one guy who dresses way too good for the work he does. He dresses like a boss, but the quality of his work is substandard to that of an average employee. He tries to look the part and to talk the part, but sadly his looks do not match his actions.
There is another guy who has taken this to a whole new level. Skinny growing up, he wanted to change his appearance. The drive was so intense, and his internal substance was so under-developed, that he began doing steroids. 20 years later, he is still doing them. His vanity has extended into other parts of his life. He has the over-sized house, the way too expensive boat, and of course the brand new, jacked-up truck that completes the image he is hoping to achieve. He is looking for validation but is missing something on the inside.
“Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.” –Kurt Vonnegut
Are these two on to something? Can we just pretend and then become what we pretend to be? Or is it something more. Could be that Vonnegut was referring to something deeper, something with more substance.
Outward appearances without the internal substance will only leave us only as pretenders. It is our character and our actions that define us. And although it is easy to see the vanity in others and even criticize it, can I be this critical of myself? I need to keep my own vanity in check and be the harshest judge of my actions. Humility should always be at the forefront.
One acts rich but has nothing; another acts poor but has great wealth. -Proverbs 13:7