Do you want to organize your life?
Beyond the simple pleasure of having a place for everything and everything in its place, is there more?
Do you want to live a fuller and more accomplished life? Can organization help?
Wisdom of Our Elders
In Introducing Psychology of Success, authors Alison & David Price point to the research of Richard Leider and what wisdom senior citizens would offer when asked how to live a good life:
Researcher Richard Leider has dedicated nearly 25 years to interviewing senior citizens, asking them just this question (let’s hope that he doesn’t regret spending all that time on it!). Fascinatingly, he found that, almost without exception, when senior citizens look back, they say the same things: Firstly, make sure that you take regular ‘time out’ to look at the bigger picture, and to work out what you want from life. You get so caught up in the rat race of life that it usually takes a crisis to make you step back and re-visit what your priorities are. Secondly, be more courageous and take more risks. You are most alive when you are learning, growing, stretching and exploring. And finally, make sure that you work out, as early as possible in your life, what will make you genuinely fulfilled. Success is often measured in external ways, such as how big your house is or what job title you have, but the internal measure of how happy you feel inside is far more important.
This is the hardest part of getting organized. Making the connection between today and the unknowable future.
We know long-term that being more organized will help us be more productive, get the right things done and feel better about ourselves.
But how do we make that connection between now and some mythical tomorrow when everything is going to be perfect?
How do we make ourselves pay the price today for the treasures of a better future?
In order to get those treasures I had to find a way to think long term, but act in the short term.
I know I have 1440 minutes in every day and I have to make the most of them (thank you Kevin Kruse).
Yes, the days are long and the years are short (thank you Gretchen Rubin).
The questions remains: how to turn that knowledge into something real, something I could use in my organization challenge?
After reading of Mr. Leider’s research I had an idea (or three)
Look at the Bigger Picture
Look at the bigger picture to work out what you want from life.
I want to build a system that is simple, keeps that nasty Zeigarnik Effect from ruining my day and is bulletproof.
I know the benefits of being organized. That doesn’t help though when the decision is whether to do the dishes or turn on the TV and binge watch some Netflix.
In the end, just looking at the bigger picture is still a passive action. I needed action, action. I needed inspiration.
Take More Risks
Just putting all these thoughts down on paper and sharing them with the world is a risk. Thinking what I have done and am doing is important enough to share, is a risk.
I finally realized though that the biggest risk is doing nothing.
Every morning as part of my Morning Pages routine I look at my life goals. Then I look at my monthly goals. Finally, I read a few passages that inspire me. One of them is The Man in the Arena. This is the portion of the speech by Teddy Roosevelt I review daily:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
What sticks with me every time I read it is the part about “cold and timid souls” and how they will never know victory or defeat.
I feel like until this year, even though I had accomplished many things in my life, I felt cold and timid about the last few years.
After losing my job in 2011 I’ve bounced around and rather than making things happen in my life, I was just watching things happen to my life, at least professionally.
I decided I had too much to lose and too many loved ones counting on me to let that continue.
I decided 2017 would be the beginning of building a new me.
A new me that took risks and would keep doing it regardless of the outcome.
I convinced myself that I’d rather say, yep, I blew that one, than lying on my death bed wallowing that it was too late to even try.
What Fulfills You?
I’m almost 45 as I write this and with each passing year time becomes more important.
Not the big house, fast car or more stuff.
Just time not worrying about stuff that doesn’t matter and time spent with my family.
I need to maximize my time.
Spending time with my family and writing are the things that fulfill me.
I have to do everything I can to make the time to bring more of those things into my life.
I’ve looked at the big picture, I’ve committed to taking more risks and I know what fulfills me.
It is that shift in mindset that echoes now in my head when I think about organization.
When I debate whether to put in that extra 1% of effort I hear that echo.
No more being lazy “just this one time.” I know the only person I’m trying to fool is myself.
I know that trying to organize your life is hundreds of decisions over the course of weeks, months and years.
The difference is now I think about every organization decision today and how it will impact me in the future. And when I frame it that way its a no-brainer.
Archimedes said give me a lever long enough and I’ll move the world. I finally realized that organization is one of my levers. It is a lever I can use to move my life in the direction I want it to go.
I’ll listen to the wisdom of my elders. I want to look back on my life someday and not be one of those cold and timid souls.
How about you?