You can do anything you want, but not everything.
—William Ray Rippy
We live in a world that is filled and running over with books, television programs, seminars, tapes, CDs, articles, and Web sites that contain thousands of ideas about what we can do to make life better. These ideas range from little things, like keeping track of the water you drink during the day by only using one container, to huge things, such as listening with empathy to improve a strained relationship.
Many of these are good ideas. Some of them are great ideas. But there are a few key do’s in life that make such an enormous difference—their impact is so huge, their implications so far-reaching, that they truly are in a class by themselves.
In the area of life balance, these pivotal “Gotta Do’s” are:
Develop “navigational intelligence.”
To tap into the power of these Gotta Do’s is the key to the building a momentum-generating life balance capacity.
When you’re operating out of assumptions and paradigms that are incomplete, inaccurate, or distorted, there’s no way you’re going to get maximum quality results. Align your expectations with reality—with the way things really are—and with the timeless and universal principles that create the positive results you want to achieve.
Years ago, an associate shared with us the following experience:
While a woman was waiting for her plane at London’s Heathrow Airport, she purchased a package of English shortbread cookies.
Making her way to a seating area, she carefully arranged her luggage and was getting settled when a man approached and indicated by pleasant gesture that he would like to occupy the seat next to her. She nodded and he sat down.
After a few moments, the woman decided to eat some of the cookies she had purchased, and she reached down to get them. As she opened the package, she noticed the man beside her watching with great interest. She took the first cookie and began to eat when, to her great surprise, the man reached over, smiling, and took the second cookie.
The woman ate her cookie in stunned silence, astonished at the audacity of the man. After a moment she determinedly reached for the third cookie, but no sooner had she taken it out of the package than he, again smiling and without a word, reached over and took the fourth. Her indignation rose as back and forth they went in total silence, she taking a cookie, he taking a cookie, until they reached the bottom of the package where the final cookie remained.
Without hesitation, the man reached over and took it, broke it in half, and cheerfully handed her one of the pieces. The woman took her half of the cookie with an icy glare. After finishing his half, the man stood, still smiling. With a polite bow, he turned and walked away.
The woman could not believe that anyone could be so arrogant and rude. She was extremely flustered, her stomach churning. Making her way back to the airport gift shop, she picked up a package of antacid. As she opened her purse to get the money to pay for it, she stopped short.
There in the bag was her unopened package of shortbread cookies!
Can you even begin to imagine the embarrassment, the chagrin, this woman felt when she discovered her mistake? Think of her attitudes and her behavior—inappropriate, rude, potentially destructive—and all stemming from the way she saw the situation. If she had seen things as they really were, how different her experience would have been! Instead of wasting all that time and energy struggling with shock, anger, suspicion, and embarrassment, she could have enjoyed a pleasant conversation with a man of obvious manners, character, charm, and a great sense of humor.
As observers, it’s easy for us to laugh at the situation. But most of the time we’re not the observers; we are the participants in real- life situations in which our own attitudes and behaviors are the result of some unrecognized, incorrect, or incomplete thinking pattern. In these situations, we don’t find it so easy to laugh. We live with the pain, the frustration, the misjudgment, often never making it to that final scene where we discover that the basic assumptions causing the pain were wrong all along.
Just take a minute and imagine what your own possible involvement in this experience might have been. Suppose, for example, that you had watched this interaction but you hadn’t been in on that final discovery that the cookies were really his. Suppose you were to board the plane and find that the man involved had the seat next to you.What would your reaction be when they brought your meal? Do you think you might eat with your fork poised in defense, watching him warily out of the corner of your eye?
Now suppose you were aware of that final discovery. Would that affect how you saw the man as he took the seat next to you? A little . . . or a lot?
The point is, because the way we see so dramatically affects our thoughts and behaviors, it’s absolutely vital that we see clearly. And this is especially true when it comes to expectations, because our expectations create the basis of our decisions and actions and of the results we get in our lives.
They also create most of our frustration. As our friend and colleague Stephen Covey has observed, “Frustration is a function of expectation.” When our expectations are based on illusion or wishful thinking, or when they don’t take into honest consideration the realities of our own situation, we’ll likely be disappointed and frustrated most of the time.
In our previous book, First Things First, we explained the importance of the way we see in terms of the “See-Do-Get” cycle pictured below.
The idea is that what we see determines what we do. And what we do determines the results we get. So if we really want to change the results we’re getting in our lives, the most effective place to begin is to work on the way we see.
This story was shared by a colleague. We also became aware of a similar story printed in Reader’s Digest, July 1980, p. 21.