Stop putting off success - have a cup of tea

Licensed under Creative Commons by Jeremy Keith. Thank you.

Licensed under Creative Commons by Jeremy Keith. Thank you.

No sooner had Neil Armstrong set foot safely back on earth than a journalist asked him, "So, Neil, is it Mars next?" (Actually, they didn't).

Just after Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary had reached the summit of Everest, a voice was heard in the distance asking, "well, then, K2 and Anapurna next week?" (No, that didn't happen either)

Almost seconds after finishing the Sunflowers, van Gogh's housekeeper uttered the now immortal phrase, "oh Vincent, enough of all this painting lark, how about we start the knife-juggling circus act we've always dreamed of?" With disastrous consequences all round. (Again, probably not).

I imagine that just after parting the Red Sea, Moses had a voice in his head saying something along the lines of, "yeah, OK, it's a sea, but it's pretty narrow. Now what about the Indian Ocean? That's the biggy as far as water parting goes...a real sea-parter could nail that one first off. Now, get with it, Mr M, there's a bunch of folks behind you trying to get across, here" (Well, you try and prove that didn't happen. I know it probably didn't, but proving it might be fun).

The point is, how successful do we have to be in order to afford ourselves the luxury of enjoying our success a little, before rushing off to climb the next mountain, or part the next sea?

I don't know where it comes from culturally, but the idea of modesty seems to come in here. But often, sadly, it's not a modesty born of a balanced humility and equal regard for ourselves and those around us, but it's a kind of default, wet-blanket modesty that just dampens ourselves, and those around us too. A modesty that doesn't simply preclude arrogance so much as erode self-esteem and instead discounts successes, downplays achievements and that, despite all that, might still be deployed to good effect in "The Apprentice" - it's a question of balance after all.

This is a behaviour I see very often; discounting achievements as something that 'anyone could do', or a failure narrowly averted 'despite myself'. The difficulty is that with repetition, we may end up not spending as much time looking at the good stuff as the negative. And it leads to a success-blindness that can start to weigh heavily on the self esteem.

So how about we don't do that for a spell?

I don't mean we have to be terribly narcissistic and self adoring (though it might be fun for a short while), more that we need to be conscious of the balance of positive to negative messages that we give ourselves - and how that detracts or contributes to our sense of self worth.

What about, then, making a list of the last five successes you were part of. However small or large they may be?

(Notice that we'll often say our successes aren't large or significant enough to be considered a success, but, frankly, that's baloney. For some, making a good cup of tea might be enough, and that's plenty good enough for me...particularly when thirsty). So get listing.

Now, what do those five things look like, and what do they tell you about you? Now please sit back and enjoy a moment of warm glow. Several of them, daily. Doctor's orders.  (Well, not really, but you know what I mean).

Time for a good cup of tea, I think.

The Power of No

     Photo G.M Groutas, Creative Commons

     Photo G.M Groutas, Creative Commons

I've been looking at time management recently. And I find that looking at it is far easier than doing it. That is, we seem to know what to do to manage it better, we just don't seem keen to actually do it. Which is odd since time management is not monumentally difficult in its own right; figure out what needs to be done, how long it will take, put things in the right order and off we go. Doddle - err, maybe.

And yet, I've seldom met anyone who says they have enough time. Which suggests to me that there's something wrong about the way we relate to the whole topic of time. We rail about there never being enough of it, and yet we cram the day with more and more stimuli and things to do and stuff that's 'really important', and then complain that we have some kind of temporal indigestion. Humans, eh?

My opinion is that often we're not clear on our real priorities. Or find it tricky to carve out enough time for them. So here's an idea that may indicate your priorities - write down what's most important to you now, and what you most enjoy - really - the top ten things - off you go.

Now, write down what you spent your time doing over the last week and how long you spent doing those things (to the nearest hour). Now, what do those activities and that distribution of time tell you about your real priorities? I mean the ones you actually live? If there's a good match - hooray - ginger beer all round. If not - hooray - food for thought all round.

For some of us, it may be that any mismatch arises because we lack the conviction to do the single most powerful thing we can do to reclaim our time: to say no...politely (well, most of the time, anyway)...but nevertheless to say no when due consideration reveals that it's not in our interests to say yes. So what holds us back?

There are several things that happen when we practice saying no - one or two folks around us might be disappointed (though probably fewer people and to a lesser extent than we fear); we may feel awkward and difficult about it; or we may worry about the negative consequences. But are our concerns founded in reality (are we really going to be fired for not doing that thing)? And how do they stack up against the benefits that may accrue? Benefits that may include enhancing self respect, gaining the respect of the people we turn down (politely) and even removing the burden and creating some breathing space.

And in that breathing space, we might find that productivity really is not a question of working longer hours and doing more, but of making wise choices and setting realistic expectations of quantity, quality and output. Hard choices, perhaps, but choices that will lead to a more fulfilling, and slightly less crammed life.

Tempted to practice saying no? Yes? Good. No? Well done.