Battling the Whirlwind
The whirlwind is where your day job and the end goal intersect.
It’s a real thing and it’s suffocating … it howls … it’s as loud as a freight train and as constricting as a hug from a boa … everything is a priority and new ones seem to pop up daily … new boxes are added to your list before you’ve had a chance to check the old ones … the stakes are high and everyone’s hyper focused on the end goal … we need to deliver results.
The whirlwind eventually seeps into your personal life and you start to feel your 💻 WORK : 🏠 HOME : 😎 ME balance begin to shake loose and uproot. It’s time to take a big ol’ step back.
The end goal is important. Critical in fact. We need it to guide us. To help us prioritize. To help us focus.
But if the end goal is all we see … if we set our sights too squarely on the end goal … if we start to LIVE FOR the end goal, we’ve missed the point completely.
The End Goal is an Evil Trick
That end goal we’re chasing … You know, the one that we “somehow missed before but thank goodness we stumbled on it before it was too late and once we drop everything else we’re doing to achieve it, everything will be perfect! 🦄🌈🍭” end goal? …
It’s a trick. An evil, evil trick. Because after we achieve it, there’ll be another one waiting.
And you can’t see it yet, but there’s is an invisible stack of never ending end goals … lined up to the heavens … just over the horizon … just on the other side of that blooming funnel cloud 🌪 …
Here’s the deal though, an endless pile of future end goals is ok. It’s a good thing actually. We can’t be complacent. We need to constantly push ourselves. We need to evolve. We need to set aggressive goals and find ways to get better. If we don’t, the competition will eat our lunch.
But our perspective is muddled if we think that this game changing end goal is some how any different from the others … that this one is actually going to change things in some real, tangible way.
The Pixel Theory
Tim Urban wrote a thought provoking (and hilarious) article called Life is a Picture but You Live in a Pixel that follows Jack on an endless journey towards the next great thing in his life. His next great raise. His next great love. His next great career move. But each time he gets there, it’s not quite as great as he’d hoped. In no time at all, things are exactly as they were before and Jack starts looking for his next great thing, because he just knows his life will be better next time … and on it goes.
Urban quotes Harvard professor Dan Gilbert who calls this The Impact Bias which is the “tendency to overestimate the hedonic impact of future events.”
Basically, Jack lives his life for a TOMORROW that’ll never actually bring him the happiness he’s hoping for.
According to Urban: “Jack sees his life as a rich picture depicting an epic story and assumes that the key to his happiness lies in the broad components of the image. But this is a mistake, because Jack doesn’t live in the picture’s broad strokes, he lives at all times in a single pixel of the image—a single Today.”
We all experience this at different points in our life.
Happiness simply isn’t hiding in some idyllic TOMORROW.
How to Battle the Whirlwind
You Can Build a Mindset … that shelters you from the whirlwind, is future end goal proof and shields you from the taunts of the impact bias.
Pause & Reflect … Each week, take 10 minutes to reflect on everything you accomplished last week. Write it down. WORK, FAMILY, ME related … from big wins to tiny successes. Which WORK accomplishment are you most proud of? Which personal (or ME) accomplishment are you most proud of!?
Get in the Zone … Are you at a company and in a role where you can play to your strengths and make an impact every day? Get in the zone by living your values, playing to your strengths and pursuing your passions as often as possible … if the company + role are right, you can get in the zone every single day.
Balance WORK & ME … Are your WORK goals clearer than your ME goals? Do you have a personal “ME end goal” that you’re working towards? How are you trying to improve and grow and evolve? There is no better way to deflect the whirlwind’s impact on your home life than to get fully focused on something outside of work … something you’re passionate about … something that’s only for you.
Prioritize What Matters … The whirlwind is at max strength when you’ve got a million things to do and no clear focus. Alex Lenox wrote a great article about The Pareto Principle (or the 80/20 rule). 20% of your efforts will net 80% of the impact. Conversely, 80% of the work is basically “busy work” that won’t move the needle. This is just a guide of course. Lenox encourages even greater focus … what if the goal was to find the 1 thing that would net 99% of the impact? He also encourages having a backup plan. If you can’t make it to the gym today for whatever reason, the day is not a failure. Maybe plan B is to do sprints in the parking lot or pushups in the living room. Laser focus is key when battling the whirlwind’s harsh effects.
Use End Goals to Focus Your TODAY … Each week, pick ONE WORK GOAL and ONE ME GOAL that will get you one step closer to achieving your end goal(s). Think 80/20 rule … what ONE item will make the biggest impact this week? Now, at all cost, do that thing FIRST! Everything else is gravy. Prioritize each day around accomplishing your one top WORK and one top ME goal. Once you’ve accomplished that top goal, pick the next top goal. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Share Your Goals & Accomplishments … Share your weekly ONE WORK GOAL and ONE ME GOAL with your teammates at work. This puts your teammates in a position to help you achieve your goals and holds you accountable to do the work. Sharing your accomplishments is a great way to celebrate all the mini-successes on the path towards the end goal … and frankly, just plain feels good.
Success is NOT the end goal. The end goal is the result. Success is:
• The one tiny step you took on the journey today.
• The customer you helped today.
• The 1on1 conversation that had a lasting impact on a teammate today.
• Engaging with your teammates to make one tough decision that pushed the initiative forward today.
• Sticking to your nutrition plan and not skipping that workout today.
• Finding an opportunity to prioritize your FAMILY & ME stuff over WORK stuff today.
Live for TODAY … not the end goal. Be present and in the NOW, in everything you do. PERIOD. Then, and only then, do you have an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the people around you. Do this everyday and string together a number of successful TODAY’s. This is what leads to delivering on the end goal … delivering those critical results.
Adopt this mindset and the whirlwind doesn’t stand a chance.