Can You Have it all?
It took me several decades to fully appreciate that the myth that you can ‘have it all’ really is just that – a myth. This belief, often pedaled by personal development and success coaches, undermines fulfillment and meaningful achievement in our personal and work lives.
The belief that ‘you can have it all’ pervades our lives in various guises ranging from being busy rather than effective, multi-tasking rather than single tasking, working on multiple businesses and projects rather than one, having thousands of online ‘friends’ rather than enjoying a few deep ‘real world’ relationships.
Many Priorities vs One Real Priority
More than ever we live in an era where quantity is perceived as a triumph over quality. Always being busy, having plenty on the go and getting by on a few hours sleep are badges of honor. This thinking in part is driven by not wanting to miss out on the opportunity for something better. The reality is that living our lives this way means that better never comes.
At What Cost?
Living life a life of over-commitment (as I did for much of my twenties and thirties) has many costs including:
- Always being stressed
- Always feeling exhausted
- Always being late for meetings or deadlines
- Letting family, friends, co-workers and clients down
- Not completing important tasks and projects
- Producing poor quality work
- Not having any downtime and playtime
- The undermining of creativity and clarity
- Not feeling fulfilled and happy
When I look back, my greatest regrets are not spending more time with the people who mattered most to me and my greatest failures were often contributed to by spreading myself too thinly, consequently not giving 100%.
Unlocking the Power of Our Most Valuable Asset
Time is our most valuable asset. While we can make more money we cannot make more time. This logically means we cannot have it all. When presented with several attractive options it is natural to want to explore them all. The key, however, to making the most of what we currently have and the many opportunities that lie before us, is to consciously utilize the power of ‘trade-offs’.
When presented with several opportunities at once, rather than proceed with the mindset of having your cake and eating it, decide which of the available options you most want and put your energies and focus into that option only. While this approach is not easy, not least because we are twice as averse to loss as we are to making an equal gain, it’s better to consciously decide to take this path than have the negative consequences of trying to have it all foisted on you.
This may mean deciding whether you choose to spend 2 hours on social media having snatches of conversations with people you have never met or deciding to have a drink or dinner with one of your closest friends whose company you always enjoy. Deciding whether to take just one more call or send one more email or turn up on time for that important meeting? Making the decision not to spread yourself thinly across 3 business that all have potential or putting your time energy and focus into the business your heart is really in, thereby increasing its chances of success.
An Empowering Mindset and Approach
When faced with several attractive opportunities at once, frame your choice in terms of which opportunity (whether personal or work related) you will choose to give 100% to in order to increase the likelihood of success and fulfillment.
This approach is consciously adopted by outperformers across every field. On his return to Apple Steve Jobs famously slashed the number of product lines and focused the company’s time, energies and resources on a select few. Those who excel in sport and athletics, rarely focus on more than one event, even though they might actually be good at 2 or 3. A jack of all trades is rarely a master of one.
Embracing and utilizing the power of trade-offs, not only increases the chances of you succeeding in those endeavors that you fully invest your time, energy and focus in but it also results in less stress and more fulfillment. Saying ‘no’ is liberating. Fewer tasks, projects and businesses and not rushing from one thing to another, inevitably results in greater clarity and creativity. You can breathe again.
Choosing to spend your time with those you love and those whose company you value, as well as spending time doing the things you love, inevitably results in greater happiness and fulfillment. I didn’t have the foresight to live my live this way in the past, but I now have the benefit of hindsight, and while remaining relentless in my desire to succeed and be fulfilled, I will never again be seduced by the myth of having it all.
Martin Soorjoo works with individuals and teams to increase their Performance, Focus and Ability to Manage Pressure