In my recent Gentle Rebel Video Series I talked about 10 distractions that can stand between introverted and/or highly sensitive people, and the active impact we want to make in the world. I imagine most of us would be lying if we said that we didn’t experience resistance in this area from time to time.
It can be so much harder than it sounds to identify what truly matters to you. We experience conflicting inner voices pulling us in different directions and causing confusion about what we should be doing, who we should be helping, and how we should be spending our time.
At the end of the third and final video I asked the question: if you had no constraints in terms of money, time, energy, and other peoples’ expectations, what would you spend your time doing?
This is a question I often encourage people who are struggling to identify what really matters to them to think about.
Identifying the Right Opportunities
Tom Stafford asks a similar question which I came across in Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism.
“Instead of asking, “How much do I value this item?” we should ask “If I did not own this item, how much would I pay to obtain it?” And the same goes for career opportunities. We shouldn’t ask, “How much do I value this opportunity?” but “If I did not have this opportunity, how much would I be willing to sacrifice in order to obtain it?”
The answers are telling and provide us with true insight into how much value we place on certain objects and even relationships. This insight is not often at the surface of our experience. It may take some digging to discover how we truly feel about our lives.
It shows you how hard it is to say no, or to be intentional about what we let in and keep in our lives. New opportunities can feel too important to let go. But this is often simply a trick of the mind; a defence mechanism against potential regret, borne from a natural hoarding or scarcity-centred mindset (‘I need to do this today because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring’).
You feel attached to it because you own it, or it has been offered. But that’s about the only reason you are considering keeping it. In reality it might not make sense to your bigger picture, your true goals and desires.
All of a sudden, because you are considering throwing away the opportunity or the pair of trousers you never wear anymore it become even more valuable to you at that moment. The Endowment Effect or Divestiture Aversion means that you ascribe more value to these things because you own them, not because they are actually valuable.
The Danger of Owning Thoughts, Routines, and Habits
Likewise we can get really attached to patterns of thought, routines, and ingrained habits that are not conducive to what we want to do and who we want to be.
We find excuses to carry on doing the things that make us miserable because we don’t allow ourselves to admit what it is we really want to do. And we even talk ourselves into believing that we have got to do it all, say yes to everything that is offered, and live life without an ounce of regret that might come from saying no.
We’ve all heard stories like the 12 publishers who turned down JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book proposal, telling her not to quit her day job, or the infamous “guitar groups are on the way out, Mr Epstein” line delivered by Dick Rowe at Decca as he became ‘the man who turned down The Beatles’.
We don’t want to miss a life changing opportunity. But the truth is if we live as slaves to opportunity we WILL miss opportunities because suddenly everything is important. We try to do it all. We fear saying no, we don’t want to miss out, we don’t want to regret anything.
As a result we become undiscerning and un-intentional about our goals. We choose quick wins and situations we want to get out of at the expense of steady progress towards ambitions that truly chime with who we are.
‘Just ’cause you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there’
What we believe to be important are not always so. Our perception often manages to skew our beliefs about what truly matters to us. We forget that we can choose to say no. We say yes to things that don’t match our intention or ambitions just because we always have or because for a number of reasons, we are scared of saying no.
Prune Your ‘Yes’ Branches
But unless we prune the yes branches and get right to the core of what truly matters to us we will never be that person. We will burnout, get overwhelmed, and continue doing the same old things for no reason other than because that’s what’s in front of us, it’s easy, it’s there.
What would you do if money, time, and the expectations of other people were not a factor? How would you spend your time? What would you try? Who would you like to meet? What would you make?
Note: This week I am trying something different. For the first time the weekly podcast and blog post are merged. I explain the reasons in the show, but I will be experimenting for a few weeks with this format. With a limit on my time and mental energy I want to continue to commit to bringing both a written article AND an audio episode of the podcast and this seemed like a good way to do it without compromising content quality. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this idea.