With so many fascinating opportunities before you each day, how do you decide which are for you? Start by asking yourself these nine questions to help you judge whether an action is appropriate for you.
1. DOES THIS EARN A LIVING FOR ME? In a material world, we all have responsibilities that cannot be ignored.
2. CAN I LEARN FROM THIS? Can I grow as a human being by doing this particular piece of work? Will I acquire new skills or insights?
3. IS IT USEFUL? Who is depending on me to do this and why? Sooner or later any piece of useful work involves us with other people. Will this action bring me together with people in a worthwhile way?
4. WILL OTHERS BENEFIT? HOW? This can be an overriding consideration for many activities!
5. WILL I EVER HAVE A CHANCE TO DO THIS AGAIN? Some opportunities are a once- in-a-lifetime deal. Is this one of them? Or am I pretending it is because I want to do it so badly?
6. AM I DOING THIS BECAUSE I’M THE RIGHT PERSON? OR BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE WILL? What would happen if I didn’t do it? Am I really the only person for the job, or can this be delegated?
7. WHAT WILL I HAVE TO PUT ON HOLD TO DO THIS? What is the tradeoff? How will it affect my immediate and future life? What sacrifices will I and those around me have to make?
8. AM I BEING BLACKMAILED? Are any of my activities the result of “emotional blackmail”? (Blackmail is a contract between two people or even two groups. It can be clearly stated or extremely subtle, but it only works when both agree to play. We should not accept emotional blackmail from others, just as we should not try to blackmail them ourselves. Often society provides us with only a vague line between good manners and being taken advantage of, between being a fair and upright person and being a sucker. It’s up to us to make the line clear and strong, both for ourselves and for others.)
9. CAN I HAVE FUN? Ultimately, if I don’t need to do it and don’t have to do it and I can’t enjoy at least some aspect of it, then it’s probably not worth doing.
HIGH OR LOW?
When you invest your time, you want to invest it in high-return projects. The lists below provide a profile of the activities with the potential for the highest return.
CHARACTERISTICS OF HIGH-PAYOFF ACTIVITIES
- Directly related to my goals
- Might not be pleasant
- Tend to involve risk
- Might be difficult
- Can’t be delegated
CHARACTERISTICS OF LOW-PAYOFF ACTIVITIES
- Not related to my goals
- Comfortable to do
- No risk involved
- Noncreative, anyone can do it
Investing your time and energy is like investing your money. You may risk it and lose it. But risk spells the difference between getting what you want and sitting on the sidelines, between your potential and your performance.
Whenever you make a pro-active decision about which activities deserve your energy, you take the sting out of the most arduous and burdensome ones.
It’s what you want to be doing, and you’re clear about why. Then you can approach your tasks as worthy of your fullest attention and enthusiasm.
What are the chances that people who see an activity as boring, tedious, or beneath them will make a powerful difference? And what are the chances that people with a passionate, positive vision of what they are doing will fail to make a difference? That’s you!