We all are artists and like to have a portrait of our future with or without the reflection of our past. The beauty of this portrayal depends on how had we imagined the picture to be and what was the level of planning. If the art goes wrong, an actual artist can change the canvas and restart again whenever required. But is it really possible for us?
We only have an option of adding one more canvas to make the other one look better. And that’s the option we usually take.
Do you think if we would have been careful with the first one, the second canvas would have made much more sense?
I want to take you through two basic instances from my life and explain it with the theory of selective attention but from a different perspective.
Instance 1 - When I was in 6th grade and preparing for the final exams, my goal was to learn all the pages and solve every exercise of a particular book of a subject. On the last page of the book, I always used to rejoice about completing the whole book and would feel ready for the exam. At that time, the primary target which I used to set was to complete the book and believe me its a great feeling once you do it.
Ask yourself - On the second last page of a book, is your mind more focused on completing the book or completing the last chapter?
Instance 2 - One day, when I was watching TV in my apartment on the 10th floor at 10 in the night, the conversation of the people in a TV program was suddenly replaced by the loud noise of fire alarm. This was never expected and I panicked. My first target was to reach the ground floor of the building safely and that had to be done without an escalator. At that time, for a moment I became conscious that I was on the 10th floor and I will have to get down by the stairs. There was no other way. Evidently, it was a false alarm and no one was hurt.
Ask yourself - Would I have gone through the same level of panic if I was on the second floor of that building?
There was one thing common in the two instances. I was eager to reach the end of that book and get down to the ground floor as soon as possible. Could I have dealt with these two instances in a different way? The answer is yes. The goals should have been smaller in both the instances. The idea should have been to create imaginary small goals and shift focus from something humongous to small milestones which are comparatively easier to achieve. This approach helps us to prioritize important items and reduces multitasking. It also helps us approach our goals in a planned way with lesser chances of failure.
We are hardwired and eager to get to the end or the conclusion and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment whether it’s reading a book, watching a television series or making love to your partner without realizing the fact that the moment for which we have been so eagerly waiting actually lasts for some time until it starts to fade away.
And when we reach the end, we forget the path we took. Human brains are just built this way where the conclusion matters. For many of us, the conclusion is success, prosperity, and happiness. So even if we have a certain amount of success, prosperity or happiness, we start looking for more and build a new end. And this process continues.
Success is the sum of Small Efforts, Repeated Day In and Day Out
But why do we set ourselves large goals? I guess that’s because larger goals tend to give us more sense of achievement. So how do we have a larger sense of achievement in smaller goals? Whenever we achieve a small goal, we have to reward ourselves. Its like feeding treats to a dog who is learning habits or some tricks.
Dog owners would know this technique. Photo by Marek Szturc.
Can we implement the above logic in life and make it a habit so that it does not feel like the execution of a project or a plan. I guess so. I will try to explain it in my context. There are three primary goals in my life. First, to maintain Health, Second, to excel in my career and third to build long-lasting relationships with people.
Having a Successful Career
For most of us, this is the way our career is defined
- Get an Education.
- Learn some practical skills.
- Get a job.
- While in the job, try to move up the ladder.
- Get distracted by someone else’s job because they are earning more than you.
- Learn those skills.
- Switch jobs.
- That’s it . Retire with some money in hand.
Few months back, I was trying to switch my career along with the sector of my work because I didn’t want to get old while trying to perform the above list. I was eager to switch career and always made unrealistic plans.
The problem with career is that it is associated with money and money makes us alter our plans and priorities.
This forced me to dwell into the problem I was facing and how should I go about it slowly and focus on one small thing at once and stop multi-tasking. I made a plan and some short-term compromises. I had to make myself believe that this will be long process and a carefully planned transition will be required.
Maintaining Health and Wellness
For some years, I concentrated on my career more often than anything else in the world. And when I say 'career', it’s mostly a job which I was doing keeping my actual interests hidden somewhere in the closet.
Because I was ignoring my health for my career which most people have to do, one day I decided to keep the career aside for sometime and concentrate on health more often. After all this permutation and combination, I realized that something will always be missing and I will never reach the state of equilibrium.
When I started thinking about health, I made a routine and started to follow it. I realized that the plan I made was not syncing with my free time. So, I started shredding down the plan. Soon, I was just focusing on eating on time and doing yoga out of the 10 items which I had planned earlier. I thought where will I lead myself by doing just two items. I was aiming for something high and it really didn’t make any sense. But later, I realized these two activities had already started making a difference to my health in a good way. Few days after, I started eating healthy as well along with the other two planned activities.
To maximize my benefits, I broke down each major milestone into several milestones and categorized them as easy and hard. I realized that easy ones could be done even when your focus is somewhere else.
The only thing I had to do was to make it a habit. I started smiling more (not for unnecessary reasons ) while talking to people. It not only made people like me but smiling has health benefits also which most people have forgotten. And it’s free.
What about Relationships?
Well, Relationships are complicated. It can be with your parents, friends, family, colleagues or partners. Relationship with your family is more natural as compared to a relationship that you intend to form with a stranger. But some Relationship Goals are common like -
- Being nice.
- Communicate and Maintain contact over a period of time.
- Support each other.
Sometimes we complicate relationships and forget what we really expected from the person in the first place. While this may not be the case every time, studies have shown that complexity of emotions affect human relationships in a way more than one may have expected.
The complexity of emotion in any relationship is driven by two factors- What I think and what others may think.
The ‘may’ is the biggest factor of not being successful in a relationship and its only way is to have a healthy and clear communication. So instead of having huge relationship goals, I started emphasizing on communication as one of the most basic things which most people tend to ignore. Communication always has been a two way street and believe me, this does not make it any easier because what we think and what we express may not be in sync with each other either intentionally or unintentionally.
Don’t Forget, for all the goals that you achieve, It is important to reward yourself and feel glad about it to be able to make it a habit.
I did a little thing today by pointing out that habit of doing little things is a neglected part of our life and we need to take notice of that. Leave your comments in the comment section and let me know if my approach made any change in your life.