Are You Putting Any Parts of Your Life On Hold?
After writing 12 Meaningful Movies With Important Life Lessons To Learn last week, I was inspired to rewatch Click. The last time I saw it was a few years back and it’s been a while. So last weekend, I went out, got a copy and watched it. This is my fourth time watching it (love the movie ) and like all movies, you kind of pick up something new each time you watch it. There is something I picked up this time which I thought to share in today’s post.
There are spoilers ahead since I’ve to share the plot to continue the post. I’m not going to give away the best moments nor the ending, though I’ll be discussing about 3/4s of the plot. If you haven’t watched the movie and you intend to do so, I suggest you watch the movie first before reading on.
For those who don’t know about the show, Click is a movie about a guy, Michael, who works hard to build a better future for his family. This causes him to put his family on hold for his work (he’s an architect), which leads to frequent arguments with his wife Donna and disappointment of his kids. Michael thinks Donna’s concerns are irrelevant though, because once he makes his mark in his work, he’ll be able to give his family whatever they want and everyone will be happy. Michael also has a penchant for junk food, particularly Twinkies and Yodels. (think sponge cakes with creams inside. Very fattening and unhealthy. Click on the names to see pictures.)
At one point, he receives a universal remote controller from a mysterious guy called Morty. This controller gives him the power to flashback to his past, pause his current moment and fast forward to the future. Just point and click. Point and click. The remote does everything.
Armed with the nifty gadget, Michael uses it to skip activities he dislikes, like fights with Donna about him spending too much time on work, family dinners (with his parents, whom he drifted away from) and having to recover from a cough. He continues to focus his energy his work, designing proposals and clinching deals so he can secure his promotion as a partner, which his boss promised him.
One day, Michael realizes his work promotion is delayed and becomes very frustrated. He uses the remote to fast forward to his promotion to become a partner, supposedly a few months away.
… only to realize he had skipped past a whole year because it took his boss 1 year to promote him! This is the start of many surprises ahead.
As Michael looks around the new present, he realizes his relationship with Donna is now estranged and they’re now seeing a marriage counselor, with limited results. His kids are older by a year and seem less attached to him. His dog died in that year, which saddens Michael because he had neglected it.
Because the remote auto-configures itself to act on the user’s behaviors and preferences and Michael’s past behaviors showed that he consistently priorities work over other things in life, at one point it automatically fast forwards Michael to his next promotion – that’s 10 years later. In the new present, Michael is now CEO of the company. He has a flashy car and a fancy, high tech apartment, things he always wanted. However, Donna and him are now divorced and she is seeing someone new. His kids are also distanced from him. He is so crazily obese that he can barely walk (think over 150 lbs overweight) from all the junk food he ate.
Later, the remote continues to fast forward further in the future. His life pretty much gets worse each time – he continues to achieve more and more success at work, while his health deteriorates and his relationships with his family worsen. As to what happens next, you’ll have to watch the show yourself and find out.
Relating To Our Lives
Each time Michael sees his future, he’s flabbergasted. He confronts Morty, accusing him of ruining his life. Morty says Michael is the one who created this, not anyone else. Michael had been choosing work over his family long before he had the remote. The remote is merely acting out his preferences and behaviors. There’s something which Morty said that struck me:
“Every time you had a conflict between work and home, work won. Lie to yourself, lie to your wife, but you cannot lie to the remote. The remote is lie proof.”
When you think about it, Michael’s situation is relevant to many of our lives. Often times when we face a conflict between 2 areas in our life, we keep choosing one over another by default.
To illustrate my point, try the following exercise:
Step 1: Pick any 2 areas below:
- Rest/Sleep (Health)
- Exercise (Health)
- Alone time
- Long-term goals
- Short-term goals
- <Insert a relevant area for you>
Step 2: Fill them in the 2 blanks below, and answer the question:
“Every time you had a conflict between ________ and ________, what won?
Chances are, there is always one area that often wins over another. The area that wins is the one you’re giving all your attention to currently. The area that “loses” is the one you’re putting at a back seat. It’s a part of your life that is neglected and keeps getting postponed.
Try out different permutations too from the list above to see what comes up. Below are some interesting groupings for you to evaluate:
- Work vs. Love/Dating
- If you’re single and work wins every time you have a conflict between love/dating and work, then you probably have been single for a while and will continue to be in the future until you change your actions.
- Work vs. Family
- If work comes before family, you’re slowly drifting away from your family, little by little. This is like Michael’s situation. Even though family is most important in his mind, his actions showed work supersedes everything.
- Firefighting vs. Long-term goals
- If firefighting usually triumphs over your long-term goals, that means you’re often busy but none of your actions create real progress. You’re just racing against the clock to address problems rather than create real value. Moving forward, you’ll continue to be busy but not getting anywhere – like a hamster running on the same spot in the wheel.
- Work vs. Exercise
- If work wins nearly every time you have a conflict between work and your exercise (regime), then you’re probably gaining weight as you progress further in your career. Think about the corporates who usually gain weight over years. That’s because they prioritize work over exercise consistently.
- Work vs. Friends
- Do you often postpone social appointments or arrive late for outings due to work? You’re likely distancing from your friends.
- Love vs. Friends
- If love wins every time you have a conflict between love and your friends, that means you’re probably neglecting your friends for your partner. And probably labeled as someone who puts friends aside when you find love. Soon, you might find yourself with fewer friends as they distance from you.
- Love/Dating vs. Alone time
- If you reject dates often in favor of alone time, that’s precisely what you’re going to get – lots of alone time and independence. It’s not good or bad – it’s just the way it is. Independent singles will enjoy it, but they are also likely the ones who complain about not being able to find the right person.
- Work vs. Rest
- If work wins over rest almost every time, then you’re likely a workaholic and someone with high tendency to get burnt out. You spend a lot of time on your work and you get a lot done, but it comes at the expense of your health. Soon your health will deteriorate and you’ll become less productive. You might start to resist your work since you’re spending so much time on it.
- Your job vs. Passion/Dreams(if your job is not your passion at the moment)
- If you keep putting your passion on hold for your job, you’ll never get anything going for your passion. You’ll progress in your regular job that’s for sure, but your dreams won’t suddenly manifest by themselves.
- Friends/ Socializing / Networking vs. Alone time
- If alone time wins every time you have a conflict between meeting new people and that, you probably don’t have a very large social circle. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but ultimately if you want to live your fullest life, you need to be out there connecting with people and opening up yourself. Continuing this way means you’ll keep turning inwards and eventually become like a hermit with no real friends to speak of.
- Can you think of other combinations?
The reason why work is listed so frequently is because it’s the key medium we contribute and connect with the world. Hence, often times we run into situations where there is conflict between work and something else and we have to choose one over another.
What Happens When You Put An Area of Your Life On Hold
From the exercise above, are there any areas that are winning over the other areas in your life? If so, what are the areas that are winning? What are the areas that are being neglected/postponed?
3 things happen when we overtly let one area of our life take precedence.
1. You compromise on that area
If there is one area that keeps winning each time, you’re giving too much emphasis to the former at the expense of the latter. That means in the future, you’ll do very well in the former, but you get nothing in the latter. This is illustrated in the answers for each scenario under Step 2.
2. You affect other areas as well
Each area impacts other areas as well. It may not be obvious, but there is a link.
For example, say you prioritize work over family. The point is to become well accomplished so you can provide for them and let them live in luxury. It seems to work – as you spend more hours on work, you get more done. However, over time, putting off your family causes a part of your heart to close off, without you realizing it. The same part of your heart is closed off to others too – hence your connections with others are not as deep as they can be.
Another example – imagine you neglect exercising because you’re busy with work. Like in the work vs. family example, at first, you see results since more time on work = more done. However, not exercising makes you unhealthy. You gain weight and you’re more prone to illness/diseases. If you’re not at the peak of your health, you can’t be at your peak performance. That’s not the only consequence. If you’re gaining weight, that might affect your self-image. You might feel less healthy, less attractive which lowers your self-confidence. You become conscious of yourself around others. This inadvertently spills over in your work performance.
3. The impact adds on over time
Some of us may think it’s not a big deal when we put an area of our life on hold. However, we don’t realize every time we postpone something, there is a negative impact – a dent. Small dent, but still a dent nonetheless.
For Michael, he kept eating twinkies, yodels, ice cream and junk food without caring much since he was young and healthy. He also devoted himself fully to work rather than spend some time with his family. On a day to day basis, it seemed there is no real impact whatsoever.
However, each time he fastforwarded to his future, he experienced the consequences. Fast forward 1 year, his relationship with Donna was estranged. After 10 more years, they were divorced and he was living apart from his family. Donna was seeing someone new. Michael had become incredibly obese from the junk food he had been eating. Fast forward another few years, and he found Donna had married the new guy. Michael also had cancer as well as a heart attack in the period. These don’t just occur all of a sudden. They come from accumulated from all of your day-to-day actions.
Neglect may seem to cause no impact initially, but the difference shows over time. It’s just like when you draw a line. If you deviate by 5 degrees, it may seem like a small thing. But keep extending that line out further and further, and the difference becomes huge within a period of time. In the Future Prediction Exercise (one of the articles in Personal Excellence Book (Volume 1) and an exercise I do with my coaching clients), I talk about predicting your future based on what you’ve been doing in the past period. After doing the exercise, many realize they are heading to a future that’s not what they want. In their minds they thought they were, but they aren’t. That’s because they were too stuck in our daily routines to realize they have been veering off track from our goals since long ago.
What Should We Do Then?
So what do we do then? It seems there is always a trade-off somehow. For example, between Work and Family – if you choose work, that means you’ll be well accomplished in your work in the future. However, family will take a back seat and you will neglect your loved ones. Yet, if you choose family, you may have great relationships with them but you’ll just be an okay performer at work. People will be advancing ahead because they put in extra hours at work. Either way it seems you can’t win.
The answer is it’s not about choosing/compromising one or another, going for work-life balance, making trade-offs, or mambo jambo like that. It’s about maximizing every area of your life.
As I mentioned in reply to a reader comment below:
I don’t believe in the conventional notion of balanced living but more about life maximization. Balanced living connotes that we have to compromise an area of our life so we can fulfill another area, and it conveys a lot on compromise and making trade-offs. The compromise comes more from limiting beliefs though – It’s possible to achieve maximum results in all areas of our life – it’s a matter of finding how to do so.
This requires detailed explanation which I’ll cover in a separate post soon.
Ultimately, all the areas in your life are important because they are extensions of you as a person. If you’re always choosing one area over another, you’re just denying a part of yourself. What each area represents is dependent on the meaning you assign to it, but basically every area contribute to the development of your Mind, Body, Heart and Soul.
For the same reason, the areas don’t operate as silos (see #2 above on affecting other areas of your life). They are all interlinked. Neglect one area and this ripples out to hinder your progress in other areas. As long as you put a part of your life on hold, you put your whole life on hold.
What Parts of Your Life Are You Putting On Hold?
- What areas have you been putting on hold? Is it your health? Exercise? Your passion/dreams? Dating? Your partner? Your family? Your career? Your friends? Long-term goals? Your children? Starting your business? Write them all down.
- How can you start taking action on them today?
You don’t need to create a 180 degree overhaul in your life, though if you want to that’s great. Just small actions to start off will create tremendous changes in the long-run. Everything starts from somewhere. It can be as simple as just spending 30 minutes a day, every day on the goal. 30 minutes exercising every day, 30 minutes planning your future, 30 minutes talking to your parents, 30 minutes chatting with your friends, 30 minutes working on your business plan. Imagine what this will bring you in just a month, much less 2, 3 years.
Remember, it’s not about neglecting the other parts of your life as you work on these areas. If you do that, you’re just going to end up in square one – a lopsided life where one is triumphing over another. It’s about weaving this area as part of your current life, rather than postponing it. This way, you maximize every part of your life and live your best life.
ESPER: My Successful Goal Achievement Framework (7-part series) will help you get started.
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