We all know people or companies that profess high values but come up woefully short on the performance side of the equation. How about you? Do your day-to-day choices match what you say you value? If not, there's no need to feel alone -- most of us overlook what matters most and wind up paying a significant price we hardly ever acknowledge, or perhaps even notice.
Want to know what you really value? My friend John Wittry has a great suggestion: Take a close look at your calendar, your check register and your credit card statements. While you may say that your health is important to you, where you spend your time and money may actually provide a more accurate indicator of the truth. How much time do you spend on fitness, stretching, or simply walking? Or how about your food choices -- are they consistent with that healthy image you say you want to project, much less experience?
If your health is OK, how about your relationships? You may say your relationships are important to you, but how much time do you spend actually connecting with your human friends instead of their devices, FB pages or other placeholders for connection and relationship. Status updates, tweets and constant texting may seem like communication or connection, but how much depth of feeling can you put in 140 characters?
Living in a world of always connected but never connected has become an epidemic form of reality out there. Anxiety and stress seem to be rising everywhere, and yet most people are responding as though there's no choice. They just have to keep on doing what they've been doing, only more of it.
In my own career, I have had deep experience with what it means to go to work and wind up buried in email, go-nowhere meetings and minor activities, all of which get in the way of doing the more-important work. That has led me to doing more and more of the important work late at night and on weekends. That in turn led to stress on my relationships as I wound up spending what should have been personal time on work stuff.
What's the Solution?
As much as I think I know this territory, it came home to me yet again just this weekend. Inez and I were discussing some of the challenges I've been facing on one of my big assignments and how difficult it can be for me to choose the best path forward from time to time. She reminded me that I've been addressing this kind of challenge for months now in this series of articles: Which voice are you listening to inside your own self, your Self-Talk, or your Soul-Talk? Your Self-Talk will keep reminding you that you have all kinds of things to do, most of which are the minor things in life, while your Soul-Talk will quietly implore you to spend more time and place more focus on what matters most.
She then reminded me of the old story I first heard in a high school science class about filling the glass with rocks, pebbles, sand and water. Steven Covey popularized the notion of "Put the Big Rocks in First" with this little demonstration:
I'm sure you know the drill: Everything seems important in the moment, but how important really? And how do you choose? And how about all those oh-so-important micro-multitasks you just have to handle? What do you do first?
On Friday, Linda Stone and I were talking about the mounting stress we have these days and how the soon-to-be released HuffPost app, GPS for the Soul, might help. In the midst of that conversation, she reminded me of several of her observations about what gets in the way these days, including such jarring concepts as "continuous partial attention" and "email or screen apnea." I found myself in profound agreement and asked her to consider putting more of her work up on these pages. (Stay tuned -- she will have some great contributions shortly!)
No sooner had the call ended, however, than I found myself back in front of my computer screen, scarcely breathing, juggling three different email systems. Indeed, screen apnea took over quickly and I was quietly sucked into apparently important stuff.
What Are the Big Rocks in Your Life?
On Saturday, Inez pointed out to me that I often come home Friday evenings basically drained but still behind. In response, I sometimes wind up spending even more time in front of the computer screen, trying to catch up. Catching up, of course, begs the real question: Catching up with what? And why does it matter?
My biggest rocks are found in my spiritual practices and in my meditation in particular. These inner focused practices frequently lead to simple yet profound bits of awareness and insight that help me connect more deeply with my own true self, with my soul. In my experience, the soul-centered insights I gain from meditation often make a big difference in my day-to-day life and actually help accelerate the path forward.
However, in the course of our discussion, it became increasingly clear that I had been shaving a few minutes here and there from my meditation -- didn't have the time today, had a plane to catch, early morning meeting, important work to be done, etc. All stories that I told myself to justify short-changing the most important big rocks I have in my life, the inner big rocks that allow me to do an even better job in my daily life.
The nice thing about the truly big rocks in life is that they don't go anywhere, nor do they crumble or turn into dust. They just sit there waiting for me to notice again. And to do something about them.
What about you? What are your big rocks? If you paid more attention to what matters most, might you find that you had more time, attention, energy and focus that could help you get even more done with less email apnea?
I'd love to hear your take on this subject. What have you found to be most helpful? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, "Workarounds That Work." You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
For more by Russell Bishop, click here.
For more on stress, click here.