I was having a discussion with Carl (a good friend) the other day about his plans for this year. He told me that lately he’s been feeling pretty down and he described to me the cycle of uselessness that he was trapped in.
You’ve got a lot of spare time on your hands (or so it seems). So what do you do? You make commitments. You join clubs, volunteer, try new hobbies.
2. Still useless
Despite all your new commitments, you still feel like you’re not making a difference. You still feel like you could give more, that you could try harder. You feel like you haven’t reached your full potential.
3. More and more
You take on more commitments in the hope that you’ll begin to feel remotely useful again. Pretty soon you crack and you give in. Your feelings of worthlessness are exacerbated and you end up breaking all your commitments because you just can’t find the time. Go back to point 1.
The truth is, human beings weren’t really designed to be involved in a million different activities. We work best when we focus on just a few things. Very often we’ll get good at those things and we’ll feel fulfilled. Carl decided that this year he’s going to focus on his work and his studies. He feels better already. He feels like he is making steady progress. He no longer has to slice his time between a million different commitments (and not be fully effective in any of them). He can focus on his work when he’s at work and his studies when he’s at home. When he takes a break he doesn’t feel guilty because he can see visible signs that he is making progress in both these areas and therefore a break is deserved.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to fill your life with ‘useful’ activities. Instead, identify areas that you are either good at already or want to improve. Focus on these areas only. After six months, review. If you’re happy with the levels of proficiency you’ve attained, switch focus and adjust priorities. The only rule is, try to keep focused on one or two things. Don’t clutter your life with needless commitments.
Carl is a consultant for Alexander Forbes. Now that he’s fully focused, he’ll be really good at helping you plan your financial future. Contact him on Twitter here. And yes, this is a shameless plug and no Carl did not ask me to do it.