Okay, you Type A peeps out there. Gather ’round. I have an important announcement. I know you’re super proud of being go-getters with lots of drive, ambition, achievements on your resume, long To-Do Lists that you whiz through in record time, and (above all) big goals for your career and life. Feels really awesome to be you, right?
Or does it?
Trust me, there’s a better way to be successful and accomplished besides simply being busy, which I’m guessing you are most of the time. (And thanks in advance for taking the time to read this. Because I know you have a million things to do today. I hope you’ll stay with me here, because this is important.)
Yes, being busy can show off your awesome qualities such as being energetic, competitive, super-organized, successful, dedicated, an awesome business owner / employee / team member / spouse / parent, and so on. You get the promotions and the recognition. And, above all, you meet your numbers and you get things done. You wow the audience / your clients / your friends and family. And you post like crazy on social media so everyone knows you’re a go-getter. (I know all this because being busy and aiming for the high marks has been a way of life for me for most of my life. Long story there.) Not always a bad thing.
But the big question is: Is your ambitious busy-ness really bringing you the long-term results you want? Is it bringing you true happiness and fulfillment? Are you working hard just to be working hard/ avoid something / feel worthy? Or are you operating from a very cool state of long-range Vision?
Vision is an interesting thing because, for one, you have to hit the pause button and look at the bigger picture of what you’re trying to accomplish in the long run. For us go-getters this isn’t always easy and seems counter-intuitive. The questions change to things like: What will success look like and feel like in the end? What will be accomplished or created or changed? Who will you become? How do you want to be experienced and remembered? What will make you truly happy when it’s over? What will the overall theme be?
You get the picture.
Being busy without Vision is a horrible thing. It can lead you to places you’d rather not go: frustration, exhaustion, burnout, damaged relationships, and a life that feels empty and meaningless.
This reminds me of wise words a fellow employee told me at my first job after college. She saw that I was the New Girl and how hard I was working. She pulled me aside one day and told me that making myself insane over getting every little task done at warp speed wouldn’t do any good to raise my paycheck or get me a promotion. It would just make me nuts. Especially given the male-dominated, not-so-healthy culture of the company. She even quoted a line from a country western song by Hoyt Axton. Maybe you’ve heard it: “Work your fingers to the bone and what do you get? Boney fingers.”
What if you did this seemingly trivial exercise of clarifying (or updating) your Vision and then went back and revisited your list of goals, to-do’s, must-do achievements, schedule, routine, bucket list, wish list, relationships, habits, and all the other details of your world?
I’m guessing you’d edit things significantly. And avoid a lot of regret later.
If this isn’t making any sense, allow me to offer a quick example: Last weekend I rode my fifth BP MS150 cycle ride from Houston to Austin. This year it was roughly 142 miles in two days. My vision for this year’s ride, from the moment I decided to start training was very simple: Finish happy.
Yes, I wanted to beat my times from previous years, but I remembered this important reality: it’s a ride, not a race. More importantly, I’m definitely a rider, NOT a racer. So as I prepared for the ride, and then again as the ride began, I chose to keep pedaling and to persevere, but to never push too hard and get all rushy and crazy gonzo. I knew that if I did, I’d wear myself out – or hurt myself or others.
Finish happy. Finish happy. Finish happy. That was my mantra. It was the soothing, upbeat and calming theme that guided me along and helped me make decisions all along the way. I enjoyed the ride, the scenery, the experience, and even the snacks and cycling banter at the rest stops a lot more. I just wanted to do it, to enjoy it, and to make it to the finish line (on my own) in one piece, despite any obstacles.
Finish happy. That was it. And it worked. I cut an hour off my times both days (a tail wind helps) and I didn’t feel stressed or overly exhausted at the finish.
I was sharing my “finish happy” vision with a wise friend over coffee a few weeks ago. He nodded, smiled, and said. “In the end, that’s what we all want for our lives: finish happy.” I agreed. Then he added, “But sadly, not many do.”
So the choice is yours: Are you going to choose to be simply ambitious and busy? Or will you do whatever you choose to do with a clear, simple vision. Will you Finish Happy?