This is simply one of the most fundamental insights we need to wrap our heads around if we are to ever make a significant impact in charting our own lives : What is easy to do is also easy not to do.
With that, I start this post by referencing what Jeff Olson said in his book, The Slight Edge. Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success.
Worthy of capture here, is Jeff’s reasoning behind this :
“Everything that you need to do to transform your life is easy to do…Every action that any of these goals requires is easy to do. Here’s the problem : every action that is easy to do, is also easy not to do. Why are these simple yet crucial things easy not to do? Because if you don’t do them, they won’t kill you…at least, not today. You won’t suffer, or fail or blow it – today. Something is easy not to do when it won’t bankrupt you, destroy your career, ruin your relationships or wreck your health – today.”
What is this about?
This is about an approach to take to your own life. The reality is that we can choose one of two ways to live our life – intentionally with purpose or unintentionally. The life which is secured by a singular purpose and is lived with intent is one that is well thought out. It has been defined in all the important ways and has been weighed. This is not to say that you do this in one fell swoop but it is done nevertheless, over the course of time. Its ease, if there is any at all, lies in the fact that your life has been thought out and decided upon.
The unintentional life is one where any sense of purpose is not central to it. It may be thought about but although inroads are made, these continue to be derailed by the vagaries of daily life. Consequently, the unintentional life is one easily swayed by what passes by.
Whether one lives a life of intent or not, the outward manifestation of this decision is rarely visible to others and unless one chooses, is also not much visible to oneself. These decisions are only truly visible when you take stock, when you look back and reflect on the decisions and choices made and in the outcomes present.
What should you take away from this?
1. You need to figure out what you want to do and how.
If you don’t do this, you have no real intent and whatever comes your way, is what propels or compels you forward. Or backward as the case may be. The same can be said about decisions in life, small or large. Sometimes, you feel that you can avoid making a decision or that you can put it off to a later time. But life moves on, the decision doesn’t get made and you fool yourself into thinking that you’ve not decided. But in effect, the combination of the time lapse and your unwillingness to make a decision is a decision in itself.
2. You are on your own ie you chart your course, whether you decide to do so or not.
There is no one to back you, chase you or determine your course of action for you. Of course, there are bound to be situations when others will come into your fold and may even, attempt to make decisions for you, about your own life. This is not what I’m referring to. What I mean here is that ultimately, you take charge or don’t take charge of your life’s direction.
People, whether family or friends, may take a passing interest or may be invested in how you move ahead in certain areas of your life. However, ultimately, there is no one with access or a full understanding of your entire psychological or mental history/state of being. Therefore, they are less likely to understand your priorities or how your decisions are being executed in the first place. Only you are well placed to do so, and take the necessary action, should you decide. Therefore, you should take advantage of your freedom, yes freedom, to make and execute on these decisions that are rightfully yours instead of leaving it to fate, chance, circumstance or anything else.
3. The results you see before you may or may not be linked to your action. Objective analysis only will determine if the results are linked to your actions. You must determine this instead of just seeing what seems obvious.Thinking of this, I am reminded about my ongoing fascination with children’s need for adequate sleep. The point I make here will illustrate what I mean. (On a side note, I highly recommend the book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr Marc Weissbluth).
So, on the point about sleep, all children need adequate sleep. Parents know and understand this. However, there are times when despite what they know, parents may choose to engage in counter-productive activity. What fuels this kind of behaviour is their assessment of the situation. When they engage in this kind of activity and see that no noticeable ‘harm’ has been generated consequent to skipping a few afternoon naps or that children are regularly being put to bed too late, they come to certain conclusions. They see that the children appear fine. They see that there are no ill effects. They combine these findings and then conclude that their actions are not negative in any way, and thereafter, continue doing it. What they have done is not so much sought actual proof as to whether their actions are detrimental but sought proof to justify their behaviour.
These are two completely different things. What they are doing is finding the activity or supporting action that best supports whatever theory they hold or want to believe in. So, using this example, if a parent decides that she will keep a child awake at night a little longer, she may understand that in the long run, sleeping late is not a good habit. However, if there are no noticeable negative side effects to what she has implemented, the likelihood is that she may conclude that there’s ‘no harm done’, right? What would be so wrong if she continued to do what she was doing? This is what we call seeing what we want to see.
Why should all this matter?
It comes back to one of Jeff’s primary arguments – that what is easy to do is also easy not to do. If we believe in autonomy, if we believe in our ability and right to direct our own life, and we believe in choice, then being able to do things that affect our ability to direct our own life plays a fundamental role. But as we all know, just because something is simple to understand, does not make it easy to master.
While I believe this book is truly phenomenal yet simple, this may strangely not be a book for everyone. I highly recommend it but I also believe you need to be in the right frame of mind, and to some extent, at the right place and time in your life, to absorb the message within. If not, none of it will matter or make sense.