Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Choice of Curse

“It’s all about choices.”

When I hear that phrase I want to scream.

It is the mainstay of all time management courses; they will say the same thing.

Any and all life-changing courses will say the same thing.

Any therapy, coaching, life, plan, wants, desires, jobs, even love, is all about choices.

Why should there be a choice? It’s one of the great curses that God wreaked upon us.

The apple in the Garden of Eden wasn’t poisoned, nor did it yield to pestilence, nor any kind of damnation. In fact the choice itself, to pick & eat, was God fucking with his new toys. The choice itself IS the damnation. The apple is totally irrelevant, in fact, I’m pretty sure getting Adam and Eve to eat the apple per se, was a side bet between God and the Devil. So the snake was pissing itself laughing, really, because God already established  temptation by inventing choice in the first place. And that was all God’s doing.

So choice is a curse. For a freedom-seeking person like me, this seems counterintuitive, yet there it is.

Back in my first, and last, time management course the teacher asked for examples to use for decision making in order to plan and utilise the available time during a workday. A lot of us were there from the technical support organization, so the question of the pager came up.

He said simply: “turn it off! Pagers will mess up your time planning faster than anything in the office, second only to the telephone.”

“But,” we cried, “we can’t just turn off our pagers!”

“It’s a question of choice and owning that choice we’ve made.” He said deadpan.

Me, and every single other person in tech-service was thinking, “and my choices are to be out of a job - or - keep the pager turned on? What the fuck kinda choice is that?”

“It’s a choice you have to make in order to own your time!”

Everything he had to say from that point on was more-or-less lost, as we were deciding on the choice we now had to make: whether to leave the time-management course right then and there - or - stay and see if anything useful would come up later.

Some of us left.

There are no tricks to time management. There just aren’t any. Don’t even bother taking a time-management class, it is itself a waste of time, because time management doesn’t exist, only choices as to what to do with that time. Maybe a better course would be “decision making.”

The above example is a simple one but with huge consequence. Our decision, which was taken unconsciously, was simply to keep our job and keep putting up with the overload, and the pager. We couldn’t manage either the overload, nor time, and that became quite clear by the end of the class.

The only choice that remains is overload, until you crack, and then you have to choose leaving or changing your job, and sometimes even this is beyond your control, like getting laid off, for example.

Life is about choices lost or damned. I’m not talking about deciding to rent a movie vs. watching a show you’ve taped; I’m talking about managing life.

In such cases, invariably and inevitably, the choices are always rock-and-hard place types. When you get into decisions about what you want most out of life, you often get pasted into the corner. I’m not saying all wants and desires are mutually exclusive, not at all, what I am saying is that most of the really big ones are.

The successful people tout balance as the epitome of choice. “You have to have balance in your life,” I hear them say.

An example I’ve used in a previous blog, one can raise a family or have a sports car. If one has a job that allows balancing both, you are either fucking people over for a living or you are spending all your time at work and your spouse or S.O. is raising the kids and your sports car is an expensive commute vehicle, as opposed to being a refreshing toy. Yeah, that’s balance all right. But is it really what one wanted?

Once we’ve accumulated a number of wants for ourselves, it becomes increasingly difficult to derive satisfaction from any of them without impacting the other. See above about raising kids versus satisfying career versus sports car.

One possible philosophy is to “need-not, want-not.”  Indeed this can work, by sublimating the problem entirely. This utter refusal to make any further choice is in reality changing the rules of the game. More power to them! But I wonder how they make the rent? This is a perfect tactic for convicts for instance. Don’t know that I’d want to go that route.

Another is to time-slice. Career for 20 years, kids for 20 years, time to heal myself for… well, we get the idea. This one is managing your life plan, balanced though it is not within each slice. It can work if you have the patience and determination for it. It forces one to live in the moment probably more so than any other philosophy. Not bad really. A strategy that is effective for many people. Just not for me.

What’s left is wrangling, scheming, planning, and all around chuckin’ & jivin’ to have your cake and eat it too. Then most of your effort is invested in attaining what you want, and not so much enjoying it. Some proponents will say: “it’s the trip that matters, not the destination.” I think of those Tibetan monks climbing the mountain… because it’s there.

I’ve jumped from one to the other in my life, hoping to stumble across a fitting philosophy for myself. The latter has been somewhat successful, I say this because it’s been somewhat unfulfilling as well, at least as far as the trip goes.

Right now, I am engaged in that crossroads again where choices are laid out in front of me, because, well, I want them to be.

So now I have rocks, I have hard-places, and I have the curse.


Anonymous Shoulung said...

Good afternoon, excellent post re time management. Read this book, it will help you immensely: First Things First , by Stephen Covey
You may also want to check out this post at my blog:

Have a great day, keep up the good work.

November 03, 2006 2:17 p.m.  

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