A big question that often comes up for me is whether I am doing enough. Is this question familiar to you?
This has been especially true for me as I work on a lot of new unfamiliar things. In this instance, I can’t rely on my usual indicators of progress and I find myself reverting back to that question and the easy answer is simply to do more. That way I can at least feel I have worked hard, nobody can criticize my work ethic and my reputation as a hard worker remains intact. This also aligns with another historical story that we get rewarded for the hours we work. For many roles in the past that was true, increasingly today we are singularly rewarded for the value we create regardless of the time that takes.
If I follow the path of working harder and doing more, the real question remains unaddressed. I probably feel better, at least for a short period of time, but when the question returns do I keep on working harder, doing more? This is the sure path to what I call the losing game of doing more. We make ourselves busier and busier, stealing time from our families and ourselves (exercise, relaxation) until we break down. Is there an alternative?
Ask A Different Question
Yes! The alternative is to ask a different question. What expectations should I hold myself to? This question starts to get to the root of the matter. Am I trying to keep up with someone else’s real or perceived expectations? That could also include societal expectations about time worked or money earned. We live in a world where we are constantly reminded of the ideal. Comparing myself to these expectations is another losing game because I will never achieve them; the game is designed to keep moving the finish line, however close I get.
It is much more productive to compare myself against what I have promised, to myself and others. Am I making sufficient progress against the outcomes that I promised? After all, the value we create in the world is defined by the offers we are making and fulfilling. I recognize this may not be easy, especially if the activity is new and it can be difficult to judge progress. As a minimum, we are all able to estimate the progress we expect to have made and we can compare our actual progress to it. This is the basic activity of planning which is built on a set of assumptions because the future is uncertain by definition.
Is It The Right Outcome?
Now we have an alternative question to consider, there are some other bigger questions you may wish to consider:
- Why did I choose the outcome or promise?
- Will completion satisfy me?
- Is there a more relevant or meaningful promise?
Just because I committed to achieve a goal, it doesn’t mean the goal is still right one. The outcome we wish to create is continually influenced by how the future unfolds around us. It is important to stay connected to what is truly important to each of us.
In future, instead of defaulting to the question, am I doing enough, more powerful questions I will ask of myself are, what future do I want to create, and am I making sufficient progress to create it.