I’m an overachiever.
Anyone who knows me knows that, especially those who have studied or worked with me.
I put my heart and soul in everything I do. One of the most common comments I get during my reviews is how passionate and committed I am to every project.
I’m fortunate to do something I actually like as my job, and most of the time, enjoying the process as much as - if not more - as the final output… which makes it all easier.
Yet, sometimes I feel like one of the least self-disciplined people I know.
Which I know is not true because I finished my bloody masters dissertation with distinction by starting the research phase two months before the recommended date and then waking up at 5 am every day for two months to work on it before going to work - which required a lot of discipline.
(By the way, that wasn’t easy. I questioned myself a lot and often wondered why I chose to undertake such a journey. But I had a great support team, and it was super rewarding in the end)
The thing with the masters or work is that they involve other people. Which then gives me something or someone to be accountable for/to.
Working on a personal project is a whole different story, though.
There’s no external accountability.
My progress or lack of therefore will only be known by me. It will only affect me.
Finishing or keeping at something I’m not really accountable for hasn’t always been easy for me.
I think it had to do with a lack of focus - there are a lot of things that interest me (hit me up in if you want fascinating information about the most random subjects), but at the same time, there are a lot of other areas to explore.
And with all the options we have now in the real world and the interwebs, it’s easy to lose interest or get distracted. Without having a clear purpose for starting (and keeping at) something, there’s a good chance it’ll just… meh, fade away.
Obviously, there’s the vibe of working every day to become the badass boss you’ve always wanted to become… but...
That’s quite vague, isn’t it?
I mean, boss of what?
So asking why is something that I found to be useful.
Because sometimes learning or making something or even seeing something through, as enjoyable as it can be, isn’t enough.
Especially if what needs to be done - or what I’m trying to accomplish - demands time and commitment.
There needs to be a strong reason. A why.
Why do I want to do this thing (at) this time?
That’s not an easy question to answer.
And as a planner, we’re encouraged to ask why several times to get the root of the problem.
Asking the why of the why of the why of the why of the why (repeat) explores the real reason for doing something. It should go deep - when you think you’ve got to the bottom and can’t go any deeper, ask why once again - in order to unveil actual intentions. They shouldn’t be what was there at the start. More often than not, they aren’t what originally expected. In all cases, they’ll be deeper - and truer. They can sometimes be uncomfortable, but they should always be enlightening, shedding light into something that wasn’t super - or at all - clear at the start.
This technique also helps to break the process down into smaller steps to getting it done, which makes the whole enterprise feel a little more achievable.
Asking why - preferably, several times - is key for me, as it provides me with right tools to inspire a little more self-discipline.
Because, while having a clear, strong reason for doing something and a plan to getting it done don’t guarantee I’ll finish, it surely puts in me a good position to start.
So, next time you're starting something, ask yourself why. Then ask why again a few more times.
It might turn out to be that there is not really a reason, in which case you might as well not do it, and focus your energy elsewhere.
Or you might find out some really interesting.