It’s your life, so you only have to do what you want to do. By Alistair Duncan
Death and choices: one we have little control over; the other is very much within our control.
hen you were a baby, you were in charge. When you cried, you were cuddled or fed. You expected certain things to happen automatically. As you grew older, you began to realise that more effort was needed, and you could not demand that your needs and wants be immediately satisfied.
Some people go through life without ever understanding this. They still expect to have their needs met as they see fit. The result is that they become very spoilt or very frustrated. Part of it comes from how we were nurtured and trained in our childhood. Our personalities and habits develop under the influence of nature and nurture. But we often act on many of those habits and components of our personalities without forethought. We pick up good and bad habits with equal ease.
So, how do we protect ourselves from those habits that we do not want and that are counterproductive, and how do we develop those necessary to help us get what we want? The first step is find out what we really want.
What do we want?
The first step is always the hardest. Many of us will say “If only I did not have to do …” A shorthand way of saying, we don’t want to. Anything we do not want to do lowers our motivation, persistence and energy.
How do we overcome this? The first thing is to make two lists in adjacent columns. Label column one “have to” and column two “want to”.
When you have about 20 items on the “have to” list, move on to “want to”. Your “want to” list is probably much smaller.
We should realise, however, that there are only two things we have to do in life. “Ah,” you say, “death and taxes.” Well, death, yes; but taxes, we can avoid. We just have to accept the consequences (go to jail or pay a fine – and the taxes).
In life, we make a choice in everything we do. Death and choices: one we have little control over; the other is very much within our control. Sounds easy. Yet, all too often, we accept the consequences of others making those choices for us. The rest of the “have to” list is not real. We might be conditioned to believe we have to, but we don’t “have to” at all.
So, what do we have to do? First, understand that, with the exception of death and making a choice, the rest on our “have to” list belongs, in fact, on the “want to” list. We want to go to work because the alternatives are not pleasant (lose the house, starve; not be able to afford clothes, car, holidays).
The very act of understanding the nature of the “want to” list and being prepared to accept the consequences of our actions (or non-actions) can be liberating. Once we truly understand the difference between “have to” and “want to”, we can really work on the latter and ensure that we have identified what we want.
What do you really want? A good job, financial security, good health, a group of good friends?
A good start is to prepare your own dream list. It is that easy. But, here comes the hard part. You need to write them down. If you cannot decide where you want to go, someone else will decide for you.
Is that what you really want?
The first step is the most important and often the hardest. Once you are able to convert “have to” into “want to”, it is remarkable how you will feel a great weight lifted from your shoulders.
The adage “people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan” is critical. So, get in charge, work on what you want out of your life. You will find that, when you want to do what you have to do, your motivation will increase, your focus will improve and you will be in charge of your life.
How not to
How not to keep tabs on your employees
In the Birmingham Sunday Mercury (January 7, 2001), the following management masterpiece was recorded:
“worker dead at desk for five days”
Bosses of a publishing firm are trying to work out why no one noticed that one of their employees had been sitting dead at his desk for five days before anyone asked if he was feeling okay.
“George Turklebaum, 51, who had been employed as a proofreader at a New York firm for 30 years, had a heart attack in the open-plan office he shared with 23 other workers. He quietly passed away on Monday, but nobody noticed until Saturday morning, when an office cleaner asked why he was still working during the weekend.”
“A post-mortem examination revealed that he had been dead for five days after suffering a coronary. Ironically, George was proof reading manuscripts of medical textbooks when he died.”
You may want to give your co-workers a nudge occasionally.
And the moral of the story: Don’t work too hard. Nobody notices anyway.
How not to use e-mail
First prize for the worst e-mail must go to the careless middle-manager who clicked the wrong icon.
A senior executive sent all his staff an e-mail wishing them a Merry Christmas. Minutes later, every employee received a message: “What a bloody wanker.”
Meanwhile, in California, when another middle manager lost her job, her superiors pointed to the tough economy. The company, they said, simply had to cut staff.
However, buried deep in the company’s computer system was an old, derogatory e-mail – assumed to have been deleted long before – from the woman’s ex-supervisor: “Get that bitch out of here as fast as you can” said the would-be manager. “I don’t care what it takes. Just do it.”
Hours after it was unearthed, the company wrote the woman a cheque to the tune of $US250,000 to settle her lawsuit.
How not to use the law judiciously
Circus clowns are being advised to take out “custard pie insurance” against being sued by spectators who take umbrage at being “splatted”, to use the clown jargon for hitting someone in the face with a pie.
No Bozo has been sued yet, but Clowns International, the global professional body, reckons it is just a matter of time. Martin “Zippo” Burton, the organisation’s honorary vice-president, suggests exercising caution when selecting a target.
How not to be accountable for your mistakes
The prize for best timing goes to the parent company of the beleaguered California utility Pacific Gas and Electricity Co. Just hours before it filed for bankruptcy, it awarded about 6000 bonuses and raises to middle-managers and other employees.
Got their lolly just in time, too. Those bonuses were deposited in bank accounts before the utility filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy the next morning.
California utilities, among them PG&E, have been struggling with huge debts related to the state’s power crisis. California Governor, Gray Davis, said: “PG&E’s management is suffering from two afflictions: denial and greed.”
The slithershanks file
Change, like dandruff and annoying softdrink commercials, is everywhere. Which is why Slithershanks thinks that most of his workforce should accept some spare change in their weekly pay packets. All part of his strategy of telling employees that the organisation has a great future, and how they won’t be involved in it. Pro-actively speaking.
And, if that doesn’t work, he can always make some more cutbacks on his people skills; because, in modern business, you must be prepared for change. Authors Doug Stace and Dexter Dunphy make it all clear in their page-turning opus Beyond the Boundaries:
“Our research results show that, even in higher-performing organisations, more differentiated successful change strategies exist in practice than are often portrayed in the management literature. Overall, the predominant approach to corporate change identified was not that of participative evolution, or even the charismatic transformation so widely advocated by management theorists: we found that medium to high performance can be maintained by leading the corporation using either a consultative or a directive management style. As to scale or intensity of change, maintaining a minimal level of change (which we refer to as “fine tuning”) appears overall to be a non-viable change strategy.”