Whether I have known you for a lifetime or we have never met, there is something I can say about you that is likely to be true: that a gap exists between how you live your life now and how you imagine it could be.
If I am wrong, please, please, please write back and tell me about how you’ve achieved this “state of grace.” Ha ha! If I am right, however, then join the club: most of us struggle to make the best use of the time we’ve been given.
Today, I will ask you to do three things. They are simple, should not take a long time, and are likely to be enjoyable … and important. They are:
- Consider what is most lacking in your life. Or that you most desire. Or how you wish yourself to be that you are yet not. (OK, so maybe this part isn’t that much fun. But it gets better.)
- Next consider what itsy-bitsy thing you can change in your life today that would make that gap smaller between what is and what could be. If you come up with a grand plan, then go back and break it down into smaller and smaller pieces. Then choose one of the itsy-bitsy changes that seems most compelling to you.
- Then make that change happen. Today. If you can’t make your change happen today, then go back and make your action smaller-simpler or choose another change to make today.
Some examples: if you’ve always wanted to sing, find a singing teacher on the internet and call to make an appointment. If you’ve wanted to spend less time in the office, do something to leave 5 minutes earlier – consistently, that is. (BTW, recently I heard an ad for the website curious.com which has over 17,000 different lessons on a vast variety of topics. Some courses are available free and others only by subscription. I haven’t taken any of their courses yet so I can’t comment on their quality.)
Through the courses and conferences we hold, I’ve met thousands of doctors over the years and hundreds of business people. One common theme among people is a difficulty in knowing how to make changes happen. Some people seem frozen and don’t make any changes. Others jump and make grand changes in their lives. Actually, these two possibly counterproductive strategies are related: often it’s the person unable to make changes is the one who reaches a point of such frustration that they make one huge change. It’s like tectonic plates that are unable to glide past each other for hundreds of years and then move all at once in a massive shift and cause an earthquake.
For example, I’ve written about how many doctors are drawn to getting MBA or JD degrees and have invested tens of thousands of dollars and years of their lives to get them. I’m not against getting these additional degrees or against making career moves. I am against taking such huge steps without taking little steps beforehand. Many doctors who’ve gotten these additional degrees don’t make use of them because they took this career move without knowing what they wanted from it or even what it would be like. If they had investigated the day-to-day life of an attorney and liked what they learned, then they could have made a more informed decision. Or if they had taken a single business course, they could have learned if this direction was for them. Or if they wanted to start a business, they should have just started a little business first without the detour of an MBA. (Most business people do not have MBAs. If successful, they hire MBAs.)
I am a firm believer in incremental change for the following reason – it’s The Journey that teaches. Once you head off in a certain direction, placing one foot in front of the other, only then do you learn enough to know where it is that you actually wish or need to end up. Sometimes your initial desires and goals will be confirmed and you will end up just where you always knew you should be. But sometimes you will end up somewhere else completely.
The second implication of The Journey Teaches is that it counteracts procrastination which arises from discomfort with the unknown. All you have to do is pick the first step. At that initial moment you don’t necessarily even need to know what the second step needs to be, let alone the third, fourth, or final step.
The third implication of The Journey Teaches is that taking small steps in not only “OK” but often is better because a little step usually can be reversed. (Actually, I chose to go to the least expensive medical school I could find, which for me at that time was University of Illinois. My thinking was that if I didn’t like medical school, I could always withdraw and not be overwhelmed with debt. I’m happy to tell you that I liked it and chose to stay the next year, and the year after that and so on. ;-))
So, do something for yourself today. Take a little step.
Until next time,
For Crying Out Loud!
This week I read an article by Charles M. Blow of the New York Times about Jeb Bush’s common exclamation, “for crying out loud.” I’m less interested in Mr. Bush’s statements than I am in language and, thus, was intrigued by a comment left in the comments section. The writer pointed out that “for crying out loud” is what is called a “minced oath.” I decided to look this up and here’s what I learned: minced oaths are intentionally mispronounced, misstated, or altered versions of oaths that, if stated correctly, would be considered blasphemous, profane or otherwise socially unacceptable.
So, “for crying out loud” is a minced version of “for Christ’s sake.” “Judas Priest” is a minced version of “Jesus Christ.” “Bloomin’” is a minced word for “Bloody.” And “Gadzooks” is a minced version of “By God’s hooks,” referring to the nails on Jesus’s cross.