I’ve created a long running streak in the past year or so.
I’m choosing to attribute it to the impact of a global pandemic rather than age and either way, there’s no escaping a simple truth.
I have less energy and focus than I used to.
Which means I’ve really needed to take a look at what I’m spending my time on.
Most things I have done for what seems like forever have been under the microscope. Because whatever way I cut it, some simply have to go.
If you don’t know it already about me, I work at the speed of light. Most of the time I forget that that’s how I do things, and every now and then people show up in my world who are not used to working around me and they point it out, shocked at my capacity to make things happen.
Of course, that’s a brilliant skill to have in many respects.
Like every talent, it also carries a huge shadow when I push it too far.
You see, when you know you can get things done faster than most people, (heck, I type so much and so quickly that you can’t actually see the letters on my laptop keyboard anymore – which is hilarious when someone else tries to use it) it can become a poor habit to simply choose to do it all.
I happen to think that those of us who move at pace are the very worst delegators of all. We’re also the ones who love a bit of burnout at regular points in our lives. At least I do. It’s a pattern you can see over and over again in my life.
Go, go, go! Faster!
I’m tired. Maybe I should stop?
No, I can keep going!
Give up on recovery mid-way through, because I must be better by now, it’s been AGES, and go, go go!
Go, go, go!
Recognise it by any chance?
I’m not up for another crash right now. Actually, scrap that, I probably am, truth be told.
It’s a repeated habit so many times in my history it would be daft to think I’m never going to do it again. There’s something buzzy and exciting about doing all the things that can hook me into the vortex before I even know it.
The real truth is that my body is not up for another crash. And for some reason, the override button that I’m so used to pressing, isn’t working.
Or at least, not as well as it used to.
Simple yet profound changes have occurred.
- I’m unable to focus for more than about 30 minutes at a time if it’s just me and a screen.
- If I meet more than three people in a day for a really high quality, intimate conversation, either coaching, or new connections, or even friends, I find I have very little energy for anything else.
- I have a pile of books I know have exciting things in them for me to learn, but on the whole, I just can’t muster the energy (I reckon I’ve read 8-10 books this year when I would normally have read 30-40 by now).
- I need breaks in my day. Long gone are the times when I could work through a lunch break with no consequences. If I see clients in the evening, I start later in the day, possibly even at lunchtime.
- If I have a virtual keynote to deliver in my diary, chances are I will have space for maybe two other things in the day.
There’s more, but you get what I’m saying. The days where I used to strike 20 things off my to-do list and then exercise and have a full evening are long gone. I’m not sacrificing my exercise (self-care is a lifestyle choice now, not a thing I do when I have time), but the to-do list?
There was no wise choice other than to make it shorter.
This is an absolute Gift
The best gifts in life, the ones that are all about our growth, tend to come wrapped in crappy paper. Literally crappy. The stuff your puppy has pooped on. There’s no way around unwrapping them but to go through the crap. You have to stick your hands in and find out what’s there.
None of us want to do that of course, which is why we dance around at the edges, trying to do things the way we’ve always done them. Knowing there are lessons we need to learn, but resisting them at every step on the way. Pushing harder and rarely smarter. It’s human nature. Pretty funny actually, if we had the ability to step back and watch it with objectivity.
We know that doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results is the very definition of insanity, and yet there we go, repeating our Perfect Systems ad inifinitum, whilst sighing and wondering how we have found ourselves here again.
It’s a gift when life presents us with a situation that says, ‘Dead End’. When you can literally go no further along the path you have always known. The option is simply not there.
And though we don’t like the look of the other paths available, if we look carefully enough, we’ll hear a tiny whisper in our souls saying, ‘It’s time. Aren’t you excited to see what’s on the other side?’.
So, this gift of lack of energy and lack of focus, at a time when I still have a deep desire to create change and impact in the world (and to continue to be able to pay the mortgage) calls me to take a different path.
Lo and behold, even though I’ve wanted to double back a few times (my inner habitual sat-nav thinking it knows the way, keeps calling, ‘Turn around when possible!’), I have found the most exciting thing to be true:
Most things make no difference at all.
I’ve been teaching this phrase for years now. And, like most of us, I’ve known it on one level and completely ignored it on another. I’ve tinkered around the edges, nodding sagely. But my word, let me be clear, I did not have it in my bones.
Do I have it now? I can’t say for sure.
I can say, I’m pretty hooked on the discovery that I can cross many, many things off my to do list, giving them absolutely zero attention, and still co-create a successful, thriving business.
I can say that it has been an utter joy in the last few months to surrender every bit of marketing copywriting I would normally write for a programme launch to the ‘never doing again’ list and still smash all of our targets.
I can say that my day feels a heck of a lot more exciting when I consciously and deliberately choose only things that bring me joy and have me right in the middle of my Zone of Genius to do, whilst gaily abandoning anything that makes me want to stick pins in my eyes.
I can shout from the rooftops how liberating it has been to discover that I actually had the time and energy to start a second book (only half an hour a day of course, because that’s my focus level) even when I had committed to only doing two or three major things a day.
I can say how glorious it has been to launch the next cohort of Remarkable Leadership and take three days off for Easter the week before it opened, when normally I would be spinning round like a whirling dervish to get things over the line.
Let me be clear. This is not one of those blogs about becoming some kind of lifestyle guru who works on a beach and takes insta snaps.
(I tried a month of working from a camper van in France, with no air conditioning, in a heatwave. Hated it.)
I’m not saying that.
I’m saying that most things make no difference at all.
I’m saying that this is about DISCERNMENT.
And that at some point you might want to treat yourself to an experiment where you test that out.
Where you look at that big long list you have created for yourself to complete and you create another one. Your ‘Never Doing’ list.
And you see just how many things you can transfer onto that without anyone noticing or anything changing whatsoever.
That it might be pretty amazing to test out the idea that if you spent your time doing more of the things you love and less of the things you can do but don’t really like so much, that your daily experience of life would change significantly.
That you would have more impact. And that it might just be easier than you ever imagined.
Took me a while to get there. 46 years in fact.
Truth is, I probably have more to go.
But that’s exciting. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. More joy? More impact? Where do I sign?
I’ve turned a corner. There’s no doubt about that.
There’s a part of me that truly knows Most Things Make No Difference At All.
And it’s a liberating discovery indeed.
Fancy joining me on this path to brilliance, impact and joy?
Let’s be remarkable together,
PS Want to know more about that Zone of Genius of yours? I promise I’ll blog on it soon (and there’s a Lightbulb Moment or two in Remarkable Life), but in the meantime, if you can’t wait, pop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll share a masterclass with you that’s sure to put rocket fuel in your system.