With medical insights, “progress,” wisdom distilled through time, and technology, you’d think our minds would work with laser-like precision.
As Rolf Dobelli writes in The Art of Thinking Clearly, we are easily thrown off course…
- We receive a free drink from someone and alter our behaviour toward them (even if it’s a bad idea)
- We think something is more funny if a laugh track on a sitcom suggests when we should chuckle
- We continue to dump time, money and energy into faulty ideas simply to save face and not admit we were wrong
- We think certain cosmetics will make us “beautiful” even though it’s often not the cosmetics but a face-type which attracts us
- We venture into IKEA for the cheap lunch but are so exhausted by the maze-like store layout that we fatigue our judgment and buy 2 “Krakborg” lamps and a throw-rug we don’t actually need
It’s harder to think clearly than you think.
What often happens is that we load up our schedules assuming that we can do it all (which we can’t) and thinking it will make us happier (which it won’t).
The result? We end up tired and tangled, flailing for an escape hatch.
Time to think clearly. Time to restore balance.
To do that, a quick question about control: How much control do you have over your life?
Well, you actually have less than you think. Have you ever wondered why there are crosswalk buttons? I doubt any of them actually do anything; but they give us the illusion of control!
But of all the things you DON’T have control over, there are things you DO have some control over. And thinking through a few basics might be the next best step toward balance in your life.
1. Be honest about your situation
First, be honest about your situation. Is this level of crazy tenable over the long-haul? Short term hectic happens; long-term hectic will fry your brain.
If you think the craziness in your life is affecting just you, you’re wrong. It affects everyone in your immediate care-circle.
2. Set more realistic expectations
I think people live with two great illusions. One is the illusion of tragedy–that’s where we always assume the worst case scenario.
The other is the illusion of prosperity–that we can “have it all” just by thinking about it but without any hard work.
The truth is often somewhere in the middle. Things don’t usually turn out as bad as we dread, and things can be pretty good if we work hard to get there. It has to do with a better grasp of what we can achieve (and what we can’t).
The “Joneses” aren’t real–and if they are, they’re lying. As Ludwig Wittgenstein famously quipped: “Noting is so difficult as not deceiving oneself.”
3. Do less, better
This was a new year’s resolution of mine several years ago: “Do less, better.” The idea is to do a better job on fewer things. Otherwise you dilute yourself and end up doing a tonne of things poorly. (I can tell you from personal experience that this is a continual work in progress!)
In Captivology, Benn Parr explains how heavy multitaskers are not LESS distracted, but MORE! Just because you like to do 10 things at once, doesn’t mean you can do them all well.
Here’s how I like to think about it: Success is focusing on the right things at the right time for the right reasons.
4. Choose your priorities
So much of what Jesus talked about was priorities. (To read my blog on what Jesus actually said and did most click here.) If you’re a Christian like me, seeking God and his kingdom above all trumps everything else. After (and within) that, we need to work at what our priorities are.
As I’ve said before, we don’t need more time or less tasks–but clearer priorities.
Pastor Andy Stanley has a key question he uses to help hone priorities and make better decisions: “In light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?” If you also take that question seriously it will positively impact what you do in the here and now.
Sit down one night–seriously–ask that question, and chart out your priorities. Then…
5. Simplify, slash and burn
Re-organize where you’re putting your time and energy. This is one of the hardest things because it will mean you’re leaving PleaseEveryoneVille. You may need to make significant changes to your routine, your work, your relationships.
Some kids’ activities will have to go, as will some grown-up frills you’ve always banked on. But you’ll find that quality of life goes UP, not down.
Just as physical strength is possible if you’re willing to work out, and just as spiritual maturity is possible if you’re willing to pattern your life on Christ—balance is possible if you’re willing to simplify, slash and burn.
Are you willing to do it? Can you re-organize and re-train? Or is it too hard?
William Arthur Ward once said, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.”
In this process, remember that you can control some things, but not everything. Laugh at your mistakes. Smell the roses (unless you’re allergic). And have an extra scoop of ice cream.
There’s a certain irony to my writing this today. Why? Because I’m on my back in significant pain! But these moments always teach me to pause, reassess, and again find the sweet spot.
None of this is rocket science.
In a world of a million distractions, perhaps the best thing you need to think clearly and restore balance to your life is a wild and crazy thing that is so valuable it’s free:
Make the best of the life you have–not the life you wish you had.