Optionality, options, things to do, things that can be done, I could keep write this list of things over and it would keep growing, expanding and accumulating members.
That’s the feeling I am having today, so many things going on, so many opportunities to jump onto, so many possibilities, so many options. It feels very much overwhelming and disruptive. I feel I exists in the space between these options, but it is just a grey zone and consequently I have no identity. I feel the pain of not having an identity, a reassuring guidance, a target. It is annoying, it is confusing to wander.
As Steven Fan says, the gods praise our sacrifice of optionality, which is an poetic way of saying that when we focus and pay attention, things happen, things related to what we are paying attention to, consequentially giving us a feeling that things are working.
Yet, so far sacrificing optionality has been a pain for me. I have been enjoying toying with so many ideas and door to be opened, but walked in few.
I want to assess this fairly. I want to be respectful to myself. I don’t want to just jump onto the bandwagon of self-criticism, claiming that I cannot do this and I fucked up that. I want to look into this a little more attentively, and come away with some understanding of the mechanics.
So, what are we looking at here? Specifically, precisely and in detail?
A few observations
- Historically I have had a difficult time sticking with goals and targets spanning beyond 6 months
- I feel like craving a sense of multi-year direction and the dedication that comes with it
- However, I seem to be very sensitive towards potential new opportunities and easily distracted by the idea that I could be doing x, y or z
- In this present, I feel like I am engaging in more things than the number of things I can pay attention to in a way that satisfies me
- I value paying attention to my surroundings, what is happening there and being sensitive to good opportunities to catch, but I also feel that doing so without a sense of direction (eg considering opportunity x because is there and has an expiry date, rather than because it is good for target a) wears me out emotionally
Approaching this from a value perspective, it seems to me that the value of doing things with quality may be conflicting with the value of paying attention to what opportunities are present in my environment than I can leverage, making me feel that the way of living in which I do things well, patiently and persistently is blocked by this conflict.
I feel like I have been struggling with this for a long time. I feel like I have been wanting to focus for a long time, but I still feel I haven’t focused enough. I want to focus more. I want to sacrifice more optionality to the gods. I want to dedicate attention and energy. I want to tease quality out of the things that I focus on.
But perhaps the reason why this hasn’t happened yet, is that emotionally I still feel scared about losing options. I still feel scared about letting x and y go, as they always come back to tempt me. Or to put it in another way, no present option ever feels good enough. There is always the mirage of this other option I don’t much about worth exploring. Exploring, being curious, that big driver of me is posing me a challenge here.
Somehow it is in my nature to always keep looking at the new things, to turn my attention to the shining object, but this also leads to shallowness, because you end never looking long enough at anything.
I still feel a sense of incredulity, pity and superiority towards those who narrow their vision and become oblivious about the many complex, dynamic and entertaining ways in which the world functions and evolves. Focus in a way, goes well together with localism and small things. There is an arrogant and cocky part of me that is still rejecting this, but at the same time, many and many other parts of me are questioning what has this cocky and arrogant part led us to. It seems that as far as my involvement and contribution to major affairs goes, nothing much as changed, and that I continue commenting about them amateurly from afar.
Maybe instead of criticising myself vaguely and passionately, it can be helpful here to think about what I want in terms of focus (specifically, precisely and in detail)
I want to give myself the space of doing what I am doing in way that I really like
more precise please
I want to feel more often more confident that I know what is important for me to do and that I have been giving the important things enough time and attention
diving into some details
- more often? I can accept not knowing what’s important 1 week out of 4
- more confident? this is feeling based, but let’s say if someone asks me “are you confident that these are your top priorities” I would intuitively and quickly say “yes”
- what? concrete, specific and detailed goals as defined by Malcolm Ocean (“A recognisable desired state in the future, that causes someone to act differently in the present so as to realise it“)
- important? 3-4 such goals selected from the set of all possible such goals
- giving enough time and attention? also feelings based, whether I have indications from myself that I am doing this, but can also be inspected and backed-up with data about how I spend my time
Okay, this feels quite actionable. I want get myself to a place where at least 80% of my days within any interval of 4 weeks, I intuitively feel that there exist 3-4 recognisable desired future states that for me stands above all possible such states and I am dedicating enough attention to those.
I want add a quick addendum here, somewhat of a caveat. I have been feeling this desire in the past, the same desire described above, acted upon it and didn’t work. Why didn’t it work? My hypothesis is that I approached it too aggressively and impatiently, I obsessed too much about the metrics and tired myself out of my goals. The metrics are not the important thing here. The specificity is helpful but not when it becomes stifling. It is a difficult dance to dance, it is a difficult equilibria to maintain.
So the healthy thing to do here is not to go “OMG! I have no goals and priorities, I must fix this now, let me go that and lock me into super specified priorities for my next 6 years”.
The healthy attitude here is: “I recognise that I have a need, that I want, more concrete and specific priorities to guide my actions and I want to actively work in the coming period towards taking myself to that place”
And I do want. And I do want to do so in a way that blends in well with my life. In fact, I want to do so in way that blends in so well that it will become very difficult for me to not do it after.
In other words, I want to converge towards this priorities with high-quality, I want to engage in a high-quality process of making this priorities emerge.