“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he told me. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.” ~ Steve Jobs to Walter Isaacson
And I believe it is true for people as well. In this graduation season many graduates face the next step in their lives with uncertainty. If they have not already committed to a job or further education, the possibilities seem endless and it is overwhelming to think about the choices. This is one of the times when thinking in the negative is helpful. To eliminate the things one knows for sure are not options is the first step in the narrowing process. Each of us can use this technique to help refine our decision-making.
My home and the nine acres surrounding it always have a list of things that need doing that would strike fear in the heart of my former suburban self. On any given day, it is easier to start with deciding what not to do. Mother Nature is the guiding force more often than not in the process of elimination. Choosing a task compatible with the weather often cuts the outdoor list in half. The wear and tear on my less than youthful body is another consideration. If the day before was extremely physical, I immediately set aside heavy work projects the following day.
Deciding what not to do falls into two categories, what not to do right now, and what will never be done. Just because the option presents itself does not mean that it is worthy of further consideration. Allowing oneself to toss out the unworthy and unworkable, clears out the mental clutter a bit. If it is simply a question of not doing it right now, assigning the task a priority ranking and placing any related items that must happen first in front, the action list begins to emerge. Use this for anything from making large life choices to planning the spring yard cleanup, the idea and process is the same.
The point is to refine one’s focus to a manageable list of options and be able to weigh the relative value of the particular choice. Thinking of our lives as a product development project allows us to step back and to leave behind consideration of options that do nothing to further that development. When faced with open-ended questions, starting with what not to do can in fact point us directly at the answer of what to do.
Sometimes in the course of trying to find happiness, one stumbles upon a deep unhappiness that should be unearthed, dusted off, and given a good look. Even though we can choose our conscious state of happiness, at times our sub-conscious is just not ready to let go of a particular unhappiness. For many, that unhappiness appears in dreams that can leave one troubled upon waking. It is by its nature not a pleasant undertaking to really examine an unhappiness, but in the end, if one can come to some sort of peace or at least a truce, there is greater room for true happiness to reside in the sub-conscious as well.
Since today is a day of tackling nagging tasks, I might as well add examining the unhappiness. To balance my day and not tip it into the rather depressing exercise it could become, I will spend time outside doing physical work on this bright, sunny still day. With balance, I hope to put my unhappiness items in perspective and look at them in a way that leads me back to my chosen path. After all, how can I not look out on this bright sunny morning and not feel joy?
OK, so I will admit I have fallen under the spell of the Happiness Project. http://www.happiness-project.com/ Who knew it could be this easy? I am such a sucker for the tag line, “studies show”, and one of the first studies cited shows that taking immediate action gives one a boost and is the gift that keeps on giving. My first resolutions:
- Start writing again – a blog is a great way to start!
- Volunteer – using my best self
- Pursue the intellectual – read more challenging material, think about IDEAS!
Yesterday one of the take action steps was to go to the local public library and submit my volunteer application. I am embarrassed to admit it was the first time I set foot in the door so it may seem odd that I had already decided to volunteer there, but books are my thing, and I need to add some regular human contact to my otherwise rather isolated lifestyle. So the library it is! I was pleased to see that it was comfortable, well stocked, has current book offerings and has wi-fi so some of these missives may originate from there in the future. It is on the other hand, a small town library and needs more space and a remodel – the floors are a serious tripping hazard – I see I have my work cut out for me. What better place to offer my time than a house for books that needs a lot of work, I may be able to use some of that construction knowledge yet.
Take action today items are:
- Work on this blog and find three others that are related or of interest
- Work on my Happiness Project Toolbox – you’ll have to follow the link if you don’t know what that is
- Choose three books that inspire me to mine for essay ideas
- Return my “test” to the library
- Work on one nagging item – filing