”The price of greatness is responsibility.” – Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
If you’ve done some thinking about what you want from life, you may have discovered that becoming wealthy is not at the top of your list. This presents a dilemma: If you spend your prime time on some other goal, you may live poor; if you focus primarily on making money, you may fail at what you value most.
This is the problem of a friend of mine who runs a 3-year-old career counseling and training business. After a strong start, sales had reached a plateau and profits were shrinking. He was working hard, he said, but things were slipping through the cracks. Some of those things were important. Shareholders werent happy.
He felt overwhelmed and unappreciated. He was thinking about quitting. We took a look at what he was actually doing the specific tasks he was finishing every day and what we discovered was that he was not working smart. He was wasting time on unimportant problems that, through prior neglect, were becoming emergencies.
All that could be fixed in time and by some task-management work, but there was also a more serious problem. He didnt have any good ideas about how to boost sales and increase profits. Ive tried everything, he said. I just dont know what else to do. How To Tell If You Dont Have What It Takes
The bells went off. This was the statement of someone who has psychologically abandoned his job. The ship is sinking, and the captain doesn’t know what to do.
This may seem hard to accept, but you cannot run out of ideas unless you have run out of commitment. Exasperation is what happens after you stop trying. And ideas stop coming only after you stop thinking.
It took some time, but my friend finally recognized this to be true. It became clear to him when our conversation snaked into the process of his thinking. I had asked him what he thought about when he daydreamed. My fiancée, he answered.
To make a long story short, my friend was spending all his spare time and most of his creative energy thinking about his impending marriage. Since he was still working 10 hours a day, he felt like he was still doing his job but he wasnt.
To run a successful business, you have to think about it day and night. That means you daydream about business at home. My friend was doing just the opposite. Test Yourself
Do you spend time thinking about your personal life at work? Even attending to it by phone calls and e-mail messages?
Or does your day fly by and you find yourself sneaking in extra work at home and dreaming about business problems?
If you are fully committed to your work, you will dream about it at night and during the spare moments of your day.
Blunt, purely rational approaches do not solve the really tough problems. They require an imaginative approach that normally comes from dreaming. How You Dream Determines How You Do
If your underlying emotional drive is directed at your personal life, you will never find the creative solutions you need for your business problems. And if your primary concern is business, you may never figure out how to fix your personal problems.
What I am saying, I think, is that you need to manage your daydreaming just as you do your time in general. You must recognize where your creative energy is going and ask yourself if that is in accordance with your life priorities.
In my friends case, he could not solve his business problems because he was spending all his emotional energy on his engagement. His daytime business thinking was ineffective because it lacked emotional intensity. His nighttime thinking was taken up by his personal life, but even that was suffering because of the anxiety he faced because of work.
So what should I do? he wanted to know. I want my marriage to work and I also want my business to succeed. I am not prepared to give one up.
You may have to, I told him. At least temporarily. This may be one of those situations where you can only accomplish one thing. You may have to choose. Postpone the wedding until the business is fixed. Or get a less responsible job.
He didnt like those choices. And so we worked out a plan that hedged the bet. He would work only eight hours a day, but the eight hours he worked would be good ones. He would not allow his personal life to interfere. This could only happen we agreed, if he took better care of his engagement, which he would do by spending two extra hours a day focused on it.
The little thinking we do in our spare moments is valuable thinking. It connects the dots and provides us with the emotional and imaginative energy to achieve creative breakthroughs. If you are losing your grip on work and daydreaming about something else, its time to reassess your priorities.