I love filling up the dishwasher and turning it on; or (especially on vacations) take out the laundry from the dryer and fold it. I like making lists before going to the neighborhood Publix; lettuce, tomatoes, ice-cream sandwich and dishwasher liquid.
However mundane and repetitive, this act of “checking off” on a list, gives a sense of accomplishment – as if I have done something that day – that has an immediacy of impact. It makes me feel, at that moment, as if I have won something.
I realize that farmers/gardeners feel connected to the soil, especially when they see their harvest come home. As a child, I watched my mother plant a vegetable or flower garden and was mesmerized by her “magic” of growing something. The repetition of seeding or watering the garden/land and watching your crop grow on a daily basis – observing the flower and protecting it, as you protect your child.
Most everything we do today, or take on as a project, are long-term from resulting in any consequence; a new product development initiative that may take years to gestate; a new geographic region to enter – that may not see results for years, or building a personal 401K plan that may take years to reach its desired objective.
That’s why we must create small wins in our lives, every day. Winning is important – for our psyche – for our mental well-being. We have to create opportunities to win. It doesn’t always need be something we love to do or something really large – to derive that mental satisfaction.
When I get to work, usually, there are a series of things to do – people to meet, proposals to approve. However, at the end of the day, after keeping this busy calendar, I still don’t necessarily feel as I have accomplished anything.
That’s why, on a busy day, I try to make a simple checklist with no more than five things to do – of which at least 3 things are easy to do. Pay a credit-card bill online, or call so-and-so to resolve an issue, or to return a DVD to Blockbuster.
This simple act of writing down, on a post-it note, and then, at the end of the day, checking the list off with a pen, gives me a tremendous sense of accomplishment – again, I feel emboldened by having finished something. Someone observing this activity from afar, this may seem trivial – but it helps me make through the day of all the really difficult things that I may have to do – the series of “no’s” that I may have to deliver to different constituents.
There is enough negativity in the world – and counter-currents that dislodge you from your desired path – critics who believe they are helping you improve; you cannot always win on your large goals. Keeping that view in perspective, like a marathoner, one may want to consider orchestrating little victories that provide that adrenaline rush – those (hunter-gatherer) instincts a jolt of renewal through a mundane victory. So that when you lie on your bed that night – you don’t feel like you just wasted another day in your life.
I realize that, not everyone likes discrete beginnings and ends. Some just like the journey – continuous and flowing – like a river. Then there are others, who buy a lottery ticket every day, to try and create a “win”. I believe, in this river like journey, there needs to be check-posts – ports you can call and have a nourishing cup of coffee and start back on your long journey onwards to that ubiquitous sea.
You have come far – and there is a long way to go. Celebrate where you have arrived. Tomorrow, the tides and wind will be different.