Give unto others…
…the work that you shouldn’t be doing yourself. Sounds obvious, is obvious, seldom practiced. If you are Boss, Head of Department or Regional Director your job is The Impossible. The possible can be done by those who are not as qualified or experienced as you. Strangely, it seems to be the other way round. The easy, the trivial and the fun things are done by the bosses. It’s the next level that sweat away at the really tough jobs. No wonder bosses sometimes have a bad name.
Even when dealing with your own personal matters you will choose the easy and the obvious to answer first. Thanks for someone remembering your birthday is nice, but not if the dam is about to break over our heads. Choose the difficult before the easy – but only after you have dealt with the impossible. As a mentor and coach I find that there is a certain amount of routine admin to be handled with each client who comes to us. So tempting to do it – “to be sure it is right” – and thus put off until tomorrow the less appealing work of telling a client an unpalatable truth.
Three things help you to enforce the discipline. Like all matters of routine, from physical exercise to thinking, Nike got it right when they said ‘Just Do It’. So easy to slip into bad habits, so hard not to. When tempted to avoid the discipline I ask myself what will I think later in the day or tomorrow about my lack of resolve AND can I reasonably ask my clients to do what I won’t do myself? So a regular prompt that makes you think about the consequences is the first driver.
A second spur to action is the longer-term record, whether a CV, an autobiography or a story for the grandchildren. We all want to be remembered kindly. It is largely in our hands whether we are or not. We may not win a gallantry medal but it’s nice to be thought of as someone who persevered against great odds. ‘Doing your best’ many sound a little banal. Actually it is Victory.
The third driver of discipline is about making the world go round. Not your job? On the contrary, very much your job. The widespread irresponsibility of people between the two World Wars when they were enjoying themselves at the expense of another conflict was a good example of how we are all deeply responsible for the world we live in. So many people have done what they were told and so few questioned it to seek a better way, that we have developed the two-class system – the Bosses and the Rest. We are paying for that with world bosses we richly deserve. If the debacle over the American High Court judge teaches us anything it is that we cannot demur.
Sporting achievements are often attributed to the mindset with which a competitor approaches his or her opponents. Our daily life is very similar. Our opponents are sloth and indiscipline. Our judge is the mirror – a good, hard look at who we are from time to time. We are our toughest critic but we are also our greatest supporter. For every slap on the wrist we give ourselves there will be a compensating pat on the back. We are far from perfect but we are absolutely the best we’ve got.
Hoping for Happiness may seem a rather romantic view of life. If we were truthful we’d all admit that it is what we seek. Like a butterfly it comes only briefly. Unlike a butterfly it comes in response to achievement. When you give to others the work that they can do, you are enabling them to see as much glory as you see for yourself when you achieve the impossible.
And also unlike a butterfly both those achievements leave dustings of bright colour to glow when the next dark patch comes along.