Monday, 3 June 2013

What I Need and What I Want

Clocking In and Out of Time

     I love my diary so much. It's the place where the majority of my information is stored; it's the place where I jot down odd little thoughts; it helps me remember what happened, when it happened and who I met; it reminds me of the places I need to be and the appointments I need to keep. All in all it helps me keep my life in some sort of order.

     My daily ritual is to sit down with my diary and make a note of all the things I need to get done in the day. The first step of this process is usually to look back at the previous day and see the things that remain incomplete. Then I'll transcribe those things to the current day and put an arrow on their previous entry, meaning that it's been deferred to the next day.

     It's a handy way of keeping on top of things. Nothing gets missed in the process because I'm always reviewing an earlier "to do" list. If I'm feeling really industrious I may even give each point on the list a number of priority. Something with a "1" will certainly always get done. Something with a "9" will often be deferred. It can be quite a shock to look back over the last few weeks and see that some of the items on the list that start out as "9"s have been deferred repeatedly until they appear on the page as a "1", starred, circled and even possibly underlined in red with a flourish of a green highlighter! It just goes to show that even though I have what appears to be a good system, it has its flaws and nothing is set in stone.

Needs vs Wants

     You'd be forgiven for thinking that those items on the list that work their way to the top so slowly are inconsequential things that have no urgency about them. Surely they're recreational things that I want to do rather than need to do? What I've found, unfortunately, is that often that's not the case. More often than not the items that hang around the longest are official things that will involve some amount of effort. There may be an unpleasant conversation involved. I may need to make a trip somewhere or do something that involves writing letters.

     When I first discovered this it was quite a shock. I've never thought of myself as a person who shies away from contacting people or officialdom. Apparently, I am. All the evidence suggests that's the case. What are the things that demand my attention and achieve the highest priority? It's true to say that they're not purely recreational activities but they're the things I enjoy doing.

     I am very fortunate that my work involves making music in many different forms. I basically have to make people relaxed and happy by finding what resonates with them and doing it well. This means I have to practise. A lot. It's not something I'm averse to at all. In fact I really enjoy it. So when I have a succession of work days coming up and the items "Practice: Ukelele, keyboard, songs...Record: bowls, birdsong..." appear on my list, I have no hesitation in putting a neat little "1" next to them. I certainly need to do it but I also want to do it.

The Bear Necessities

     Although singing "The Bear Necessities" is jolly good fun and will help me in my job, it's not necessarily essential to help me achieve all the things in the day that I need or even want to get done! What about the things I need to do that I don't want to do? I once went out with a girl who berated me for eating the food I liked least on the plate first. "Ugh..." she sighed, "Typical male delayed gratification!" She may have had a point. I don't know. I'm not really interested any more but it's certainly true that there are some things I'll do first to get them out of the way whilst others I'll delay as long as possible until their urgent nature requires my attention at almost damage control proportions. I now eat the things I like best first, by the way. I take some consolation in that progress.

     I think it's about perception. I don't see anything unpleasant about the work I do with music. It's no great discomfort for me to spend hours at a recording desk putting together relaxation tracks. I positively enjoy the challenge of learning new songs and trying out different genres. I find myself wondering why I can't transfer some of this enthusiasm to the other things I need to do.

The Word

     Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I dream of once in a lullaby. It's not there. It doesn't exist and everyone knows there's not even the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that we once, as children, believed with all our hearts was there.

     Metaphorically speaking, as adults we'll still follow the rainbow if we think there's a pot of gold at the end of it. I play the music because it fulfills several of my needs. I get recognition from my peers, students and colleagues and, of course, by working I get the money I need to eat and pay the bills. I also get the feeling that I'm contributing to society. That's my pot of gold.

     This is demonstrated even more clearly in some of the copy that's used for advertising. Recently whilst waiting for an upload to complete I was subjected to a video that told me it would take me "away from stress or routine". It also promised to take me "away from days without sun". As I live in Ireland this promise suddenly took on a whole new relevance. Even though deep down I know, just like the pot of gold, no video can take me away from days without sun, they had my attention. 

     This siren continued "You must come here..." OK. We'd notched it up a level here. Suddenly it was a "must". Still I listened. "You need to recharge your batteries in the best climate in the world! You need to come to the Canary Islands!" Wow! Without any warning we were talking in imperatives and superlatives. I know, however, that my life doesn't depend on visiting the Canary Islands. I also know that I've spent time in some alleged sun seeker holiday destinations and seen nothing but rain. There was nothing about this statement that appealed to my sense of "need" or "must". But...

The Truth, The Whole Truth

     If I choose to believe something then it has unimaginable power over me. As Tony Robbins says, when something becomes a "must" then you have the motivation and leverage to get it done. I can do the same thing with my "to do" list. If I can convince myself that there's a pot of gold, a massive reward, waiting for me upon completion of any one of the tasks then I'll find a way to get it done. It just takes a little readjusting of my thinking. I can go into this as deeply or as lightheartedly as I like but if I focus then it will work.

     Slowly and steadily I find that I can look at my list in terms of needs and wants. Then I can change the balance by making some of the needs into things I want to do because of the rewards that will be showered on me as a result of their completion. This is the way to address the imbalance in my system. This is the way I can want to do what I need to do.