I took much of January off to rest. During my time away from work, I discovered a few significant things about myself and the life I’m living. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here and Part 3 is here.
My final significant discovery is…
I need to quit.
I do a lot. And there are good things I have done historically / habitually that I cannot do.
It’s easy to say “I can’t do everything.” It’s considerably more difficult to say, more specifically, “I can’t do that.”** .. and it’s even more difficult when “that” is a thing I can do or one I’m expected to.
In his book “The Dip,” Seth Godin suggests that, when things get difficult (or fall apart) for creatives, there is often one cause and almost always three potential scenarios at hand. The usual cause is being spread thin – juggling many doings because they are doable and, in their own right, valuable. The weight of these many things often hobbles an artist (a term Godin uses with extremely broad strokes) and his work enters a downward trend. That’s when the three possible scenarios come in:
1. What I’m experiencing really is an end. Like a cliff. The weight of these multiple commitments and responsibilities is simply too much.
2. I will do just enough to keep things from bottoming out entirely, but not enough to climb out, creating what Godin calls a cul-de-sac… basic life maintenance but no real flourishing.
3. What I’m experiencing is a dip… a time of trial and difficulty, the other side of which is marked by a new ascent.
What makes The Dip possible, says Godin, is not so much my strength or resolve, or even my courage and ability to get focused on fewer things… it’s my courage and ability to quit.
I’ve watched it a thousand times when a sponsor steps up to the edge of a table covered with child sponsorship packets. “I can’t pick one” she says “because I want to take them all.” The guilt (real or imagined) of saying “no” to forty-nine children overwhelms the more fundamental and vital reality that she can, in that very moment, choose one child and make a life-long difference for her.
Her crisis isn’t choosing.
It’s choosing against.
What gets me out of the cul-de-sac isn’t so much choosing the one thing, though that is the central activity… it is letting go of the things I don’t choose. To say a thing I am unpracticed at saying – “I can’t do that.”
And then stick with that.
So, at the end of a significant season of re-evaluation, I am faced with the serious question: What am I willing to quit?
**if you’re not thinking of Meatloaf right now, you’re not doing it right.