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My Own Change: Diversified Focus

In my recent post, Make Your Own Change, I noted three ways that I was trying to reevaluate my behaviors. This post marks the third of three notes on what each behavior looks like in practice and how the change affects a portion of my daily life. Links to the previous notes are below.

When discussing diversified focus, my behavioral note stated, "Diversify where my focus is, redefine old goals or start something new, review stale behaviors or to-do items that aren't leading to anything."

Perhaps the barometer of all life choices should be something akin to “will I remember the outcome of this decision in thirty years?”

Thirty is an arbitrary number. What matters about this question is generally the following:

  1. How important is the outcome of this decision to my life? To the lives of others?
  2. What will I remember about the outcomes in the future? Will I look back on my choices with sadness or regret?

I didn't watch last night's football game, instead opting to read with the kids. Denial of one experience that I will soon forget in return for another experience that (ideally) I will remember for a lifetime. I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot recently, but I honestly don’t recall why: deep thinking about the importance of any given decision and it’s long-term ramifications. I even brought it up in an argument with my kids recently; the salvo went something like this:

The worst part of this moment is the fact that you won’t remember the fun of the last 45 minutes, you’ll remember the frustration of the last five.

And it is true. Humans make decisions too frequently to satisfy the here and now, instead of to reward the future.

I am finally getting around to reading my back catalog of books, starting with The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. One chapter in and this idea is brought to the fore once again: what am I caring about now that I will realize was insignificant when it causes me to miss something or creates a problem I could have avoided?

I thrive on variety; it is actually the thing that has kept me at my current job for as long as it has. Working in a setting that values learning, testing, and access leads to experimentation and a consistent stream of new challenges. At the same time, being a part of that culture while being immersed in a campus environment means that I have the ability to venture outside of the normal when things start to grow stale.

I do think that stagnation is something that I fear as well. Whether healthy or not, perhaps there is a side of me that thinks that if I stop actively finding joy, learning new things, seeking out the next project, I will slowly descend into madness. At home, my wife and I call it "getting antsy". Most of the time, what we mean by it is that we need to change something, go somewhere, shake things up. These actions can be small, like getting outside when I feel cooped up; medium, like traveling for the weekend when we hadn't planned to; or huge, like moving across town to a new house.

But "getting antsy" gets at the crux of why I wanted to reorient myself in the new year toward a diversity of focus. Last year was a big one for me because of the leadership trainings I took part in; coming off the intensity of that work was a challenge and I started the new year not knowing what the future will hold. Perhaps obviously, whenever I feel this way, shaking things up can provide the shot of energy I need to get out of the slump.

Which brings me to the final of the three ways that I was trying to reevaluate my behaviors: diversifying my focus to produce the outcomes I feel I have been missing in recent memory. The excitement and craziness of moving houses, coupled with the excitement and craziness of everyday life, led to some things falling by the wayside, like reading, working out, and enjoying myself in the kitchen.

As we have settled into the new house, I have noted that some of those things are coming back into focus; I am restocking my kitchen and trying new things again, I am refocusing on my health goals and reorienting myself toward what health looks like, and I am reading again as noted above. And with small shifts in perspective, perhaps some of what I will remember about this year down the line won't be the stress of moving but a turning point in one my focus areas.

To wit, these are three examples of the many things I have been thinking about in regard to this final note:

  • How can I create a better understanding of value by reviewing the things I care about too much in moments of frustration?
  • What are the behaviors that I do mindlessly that have not led to outcomes or have led to lesser outcomes than I would like?
  • What roles do personal and professional projects play in my overall mood and how can I best pinpoint the moments of true engagement to attempt to emulate them when I get feelings of restlessness?