When you go about setting your to-do list for your week, how do you set your priorities? Do you tend to place items higher because you really want to tackle them? Or, do you find yourself prioritizing the things that you somehow have to do in order to please someone else?
If you find yourself doing more of the latter, then you’ve found yourself in the trap of living your life based on consequences rather than on concerns – which I define as something of interest to you that you truly care about. But when you find yourself spending more time on things simply because you’re worried about the consequences of not doing them, you’re not living a very passionate life, right?
We all know people who tend to explain everything along the lines of, “I have to do this or this other thing will happen to me.” But when you’re more worried about the consequences of not doing something, then all of a sudden it feels a lot more like a burden than anything else. Not surprisingly, those same people never seem to get that much accomplished in their lives.
But when you live your life focused on your concerns, you accrue all kinds of benefits – such as having a lot more energy and passion for the things into which you invest your time. To put that another way, the more you live your life and take action in a way that supports your concerns and the things you are most passionate about, the more purposeful your life becomes.
For example, if you find yourself out for drinks with co-workers and you suddenly realize it’s bedtime for your kids, what do you do? Do you tell your friends, “I have to go home and put my kids to bed,” because, if you don’t, you face the consequence that they’ll think you’re a bad father? Or, do you head home because it’s truly a concern and a priority for you to say goodnight to your kids to show them how much you love them? See the difference?
Think about people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr., people who had a major impact on the world because they focused on their concerns rather than the consequences of taking action toward what they believed. In other words, greatness comes from living a purposeful life.
Now, to be clear, if you make choices in your life without any regard toward the consequences of your decisions, that’s being reckless. You may not want to renew your driver’s license, but if your concern is to be a responsible member of society, you will. But if you have a job where you do things just to avoid being called out by your boss rather than working to create opportunities to further your own passions, perhaps it’s time to find a new job.
The big takeaway here is to take an honest look at what percentage of the activities you undertake during the day that are driven by your concerns rather than the consequences. What does your to-do list look like? Are there ways where you can move the needle and prioritize the action items tied to your concerns rather than your consequences.
Imagine for a moment that your job is in customer service. If your life is driven by consequence, you will do anything you have to do to avoid being fired. But you won’t go above and beyond. You can’t wait until work ends. You will complain about what happened to you that day. But if you are focused on the concern of delivering great customer service, you will enjoy your work more. You will celebrate your successes. And you will be more satisfied with your work – and you will constantly be looking for ways to do it better.
Consider, then, which of these people would you prefer to deal with? The one who creates energy or the one who consumes it?
The goal is to spend more of your limited time engaged in activities that further your concerns and less of your time simply avoiding consequences. Invest more of your time on what Simon Sinek calls, finding your why. When you do, you’ll be amazed by how much joy and passion you have on a daily basis.