Throughout your personal and professional life you’ll be confronted with a number of issues or obstacles that will challenge you and if you’re not careful, they’ll consume you to the point where you no longer feel you can function without them invading your every thought. Far too often we allow the everyday obstacles that life puts in our way to become larger and more daunting then they actually are. They steal sleep away from us at night, they rob us of our personal time with family & friends, and the take away our productivity at work. One of the more effective tools for limiting the negative impact that everyday issues can present is being able to master distinctions, the subtle yet important differences that often get blurred or overlooked when confronted by difficult or uncomfortable situations.
Here are 4 valuable distinctions that will help you navigate life’s obstacles:
1. Understand the distinction between what’s within your control and what’s outside of your control.
You can’t control the various obstacles fate has in store for you but you can certainly control how you react to them. Understanding that you can control how you perceive these everyday issues will help you better shape your reaction. Pause and take a few minutes before deciding your best response and don’t simply respond in a knee jerk manner. This takes practice, but is a very valuable skill to develop. You’ll find that your initial reaction is usually emotionally charged & negative, and when a bit of time passes, the event usually becomes less overwhelming and less stressful then it originally appeared to be. Don’t let your perception create an obstacle that doesn’t exist. Take a pause and imagine that the event happened to someone other than you, what advice would you give to someone else on how to deal with it? It’s funny how we often give better advice to our friends and family then we’re willing to give to ourselves. Time & control of your perception will make things less negative.
2. Understand the distinction between difficult and complicated.
Far too often we fail to take action because we feel we lack the knowledge, when in reality we often lack the discipline. A good example lies with the way many of us struggle with our weight and staying fit. There really is no secret to maintaining a healthy weight, it’s not complicated at all, although there are hundreds of different diet plans out there. Simply burn more calories than you consume and you’ll lose weight, but how many of us actually have the discipline to do so? Yes, weight loss can be difficult but it’s not complicated. Not everyone can complete complicated task like splitting an atom or performing quantum physics but anyone who is disciplined enough and willing to make enough sacrifices can accomplish things that are difficult. Don’t conflate a lack of knowledge with a lack of discipline.
3. Understanding the distinction between important and urgent.
We’re all challenged by demands on our time and learning the art of time management is a skill onto itself. However, understanding the distinction between tasks that are important and tasks that are urgent is essential if you want to find peace of mind and improve the quality & productivity of both your personal and professional life. Urgent tasks are tasks that are time sensitive, they almost always arrive in the form of interruptions to your otherwise well planned day. Urgent phone calls, impromptu meetings and emails often fall into the urgent category but are seldom important. These tasks do not necessarily consume extraordinary amounts of your time, nor is the effort required to complete them out of the ordinary but they usually force their way to the top of your priority list; whether you want them there or not. Important tasks do not always have a deadline associated with them, they are tasks that require more long-term planning and thought. Generally when performing important tasks we are less hurried, less reactionary and more rational. Working on relationships, exercising and developing next year’s business plan are important, but they’re not urgent. Understand that there are certain tasks that can be both urgent and important, such as filing your taxes, submitting your departmental budget, and putting out a fire (both literally & figuratively) is essential for good time management. Remember “what is important is seldom urgent & what is urgent is seldom important” so allocate your time accordingly.
4. Understanding the distinction between fearless and courageous.
I have often felt that one of the more “abused” pieces of advice given out to young aspiring professionals & entrepreneurs is the old “don’t be afraid to fail”, as it seemed to gloss over the very serious consequences that result from failure. I would strongly suggest that you should very much be afraid to fail, however, you shouldn’t let the fear of failure stop you from trying, important distinction! Failure comes with real consequences. People lose their hard-earned money, people lose their jobs, and people’s lives are often altered in ways that take years to recover from. But even in the face of all these consequences, I would still advise you to be courageous in your endeavors, just don’t be fearless. Fearlessness is a mental disorder, courageousness is a character trait. Fear, if harnessed, can be a great motivational tool used to drive you toward success. Fear needs to be managed & controlled, but should never be ignored. Enter into your business ventures with your eyes wide open, always be aware of the consequences failure will bring but confident in your ability and your plan, and courageous in your actions.
These important distinctions can become more clear and precise when we learn that it’s our own perception that is often times blurring the lines of contrast between similar things and keeping these lines visibly identified by controlling your perceptions is the key to successfully navigating the obstacles everyday life puts in your way.