Friday, June 04, 2004

Choose or Lose

We make choices every day.

It took me a long time to realize that sometimes I liked to pretend to myself that I wasn't making a choice - that "things just happened" that kept me from what I said I wanted. Hey, I wanted to see you this weekend, I just never had the time.

Usually though, if I look back far enough, I did make a choice somewhere that had direct bearing on the outcome. I chose to sleep in or I chose to veg on the couch watching TV or go biking instead of picking up the phone to make plans to get together. Sometimes it seemed like a bigger deal that I had no control over, like having to take the time to fix a broken down car so I'd have wheels for work - but then if I'm honest, it's probably something I could have take care of much earlier so it never got to the point of breakdown. Tough thing to admit... but there it is.

Every time we choose to do one thing, it nearly always means that we are choosing not to do another thing - at least not at that moment anyway.

In practical terms, this was mostly a time management issue for me for a long time. Then I realized that I felt better about choosing to do some things than others. Some of my choices seemed like a good idea at the time (like sitting in front of the computer for hours on end not getting anything particularly productive done), only to find out later that I felt much worse for having made the choice. It reminded me of having too much to drink at a lousy party and not having the alcohol haze improve my opinion of the party... worse yet, then waking up with the hangover from hell that won't go away. Very unsatisfying at nearly every level.

What was up with that?

What was up was that I was making choices that weren't meaningful to me. They were what was easy, sure, and being easy is important to me but it's not the most important thing to me. And there are other ways to have that and get more out of it. What I discovered is that if I made choices based on the values that mattered most to me, I started feeling better about how I used my time and I even started getting more done, however that works.

It turns out that lots of folks don't even know which values are most important to them. If that's true for you, it does make it tougher to align your choices with your values. We all onion-boys like Shrek, I guess; we got layers and it can take some effort to peel some of that away - even when we're just talking about ourselves.

One way to peel back some of those layers is to try playing "Choose or Lose." Unlike the MTV deal of the same name (where I'm not sure exactly what it is you lose if you don't choose - your voice? Definitely important but not what I'm talking about), this is about choosing what's important or lose the ability to harness it. Some people lose even more than that when they don't understand and align with their core values.

I'm sure the list of values noted on the worksheet is incomplete. I hope you'll give it a look and send a list of additional values you think should be included to me at so I can update it.

If you want to know where you're going, just take at look at the choices you're making.