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Guest Post: On Being On-Track With Obsessive Tasks

It's particularly challenging with tasks that require intense bursts of time and energy. Coding, writing, inteking strange new behaviors and worldviews. These are things that require intense focus, energy, and enthusiasm and just the right mental state. That can be very hard to maintain, and in fact, is often not even beneficial to maintain in other areas of your life that you have a higher degree of mastery and require less arousal to reach your optimal performance. So I think it's natural to fall into and out of this "high-energy" mode, which many of us associate with exponential productivity.

But there are some easy traps to fall into here.

One of the biggest is ignoring the skill of putting yourself in this mode at will. There is not actually a magic genie in your walls. You need to be able to say, tomorrow morning I have time to write, and I will write, and a part of that is getting yourself into "the zone." If you are failing to get yourself into "the zone," then you need to step back and work on that skill independently. Maybe that means re-awakening your original inspiration (thinking about all the people you will help with this book) or maybe it is preparing your vessel (low-fat, high fiber diet the day before, 6 hours of sleep, wake up, run, then get right to work... or whatever ritual ends up working). But these are factors that need to be evaluated.

I think another big one is denial. Thinking that you can maintain this state longer than you can, physio/psychologically or just within the constraints of the rest of your life. It's important to "pump yourself up" to the very high levels necessary to achieve your goals. It's also important to deal with the realities and interruptions and diversions of life as they come, then be able to return to that state.

Anyway, with regard to myself and my major goals, this week was largely a wash.

Goodness in our Eyes

On On the Side of the Good

It seems we can’t go a day without seeing or hearing what surprising thing Pope Francis has done. We can’t get enough of his smile—he smiles with his eyes, doesn’t he? Maybe it’s because he pays his own way, and doesn’t wear fancy shoes that we find him so charming. Maybe it’s because he sneaks out in disguise in the middle of the night to feed the poor. Is it, instead, that in him we see an example of Humility missing in a culture that made “selfie” the word of the year?

No matter our political beliefs, religions, or lack thereof, we often hear about “VALUES.” Defending our values, standing up for our values, protecting our values are all phrases that get ramped up in election years. But who can really aptly define Values? They tend to be relative to our situation in life, much like the value of the stock market, different from one day to the next.

Perhaps what we see in people like Pope Francis are examples of Virtues— ideas of moral excellence put into practice. Honesty, Integrity, Tolerance, Justice, Peace, Courage, Humility, Compassion, Generosity, the list continues, are all fixed, apolitical, non-denominational principles that strengthen the Side of the Good.

Thinkers from Aristotle to Benjamin Franklin to Thoreau and beyond have recycled the importance of Virtue as a step in the direction of greatness. But to be on the side of the Good, we don’t have to achieve perfection, nor greatness. Instead, maybe we look within and find which of these Virtues is lacking in our own lives? Which are most important for our children to learn? Maybe we need a bit of Francis’ Humility? Perhaps we need Courage. I always need that. Maybe our children need to work on Integrity, Tolerance, or Grit?

It’s certainly not easy, and we won’t be perfect. But we can find a comfortable balance that strengthens the Good. And as we take these steps in growing the Good, in growing our hearts, maybe we, too, will find ourselves smiling with our eyes.

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