Relating To Our Lives
Each time Michael sees his future, he is flabbergasted. He confronts Morty, accusing him of ruining his life. Morty says Michael is the one who created this life, not anyone else. Michael had been choosing work over his family long before he had the remote. The remote is merely acting on his behavior. In particular, there’s something that Morty said which 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 lieproof.”
When you think about it, Michael’s situation is similar to many of our lives. Oftentimes when we face a conflict between two areas in our life, most of us would choose one over another, without evaluation, without contemplation.
To illustrate my point, try the following exercise:
Step 1: Pick any 2 areas below
Pick any 2 areas below first. Doesn’t matter which – you can pick them randomly.
- Love (or Dating if you’re single)
- Your Passion/Dreams
- Alone time
- Spiritual health
- <Insert a relevant area for you>
Step 2: Place them in the blanks below, and answer the question:
“Every time you had a conflict between ________ and ________, what won?”
Chances are, there is always one area that wins over the other. The area that wins is the one you have been giving all your attention to. The area that “loses” is the one you’re putting on the back burner. It’s the part of your life that is neglected and keeps getting postponed.
Try out different permutations to see what answers you get. Some interesting combinations to look at:
- Work vs. Love
- 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 until you change your action.
- Work vs. Family
- If work comes before family, you’re slowly drifting from your family, bit by bit. This is like Michael’s situation. Even though Family is the most important thing to him, his actions show that 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 change. Moving forward, you will continue to be busy but not get 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 exercise, then you’re probably gaining weight or becoming unhealthier as you progress in your career. It’s common for corporate employees to gain weight after working for a few years. That’s because they constantly prioritize work over exercise.
- Work vs. Friends
- Do you often postpone social appointments due to work? You’re likely getting distanced from your friends.
- Love vs. Friends
- If love wins every time you have a conflict between your partner and friends, that means you’re probably neglecting your friends for your partner.
- Love vs. Alone time
- If you often reject dates 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 some of them also complain about not being able to find the one.
- Work vs. Rest
- If work wins over rest time almost every time, then you’re likely a workaholic with a high tendency to burn out. You spend a lot of time on work and you get a lot done, but this comes at the expense of your health. Soon your health will deteriorate and you will become less productive. If you’re in your 20s, you won’t see it yet, but it becomes obvious when you enter your 30s and 40s. You may start to resist your work since you’re spending so much time on it.
- Your Job vs. Your Passion (if your job is not your passion at the moment)
- If you keep putting your passion on hold for your current job, you’ll never get anything going for your passion. You will progress in your regular job that’s for sure, but your dreams won’t suddenly manifest by themselves.
- Socializing vs. Alone time
- If alone time wins every time you have a conflict between meeting new people and alone time, then you probably don’t have a very large social circle. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but something to take note if you feel lonely and isolated sometimes. Continuing this way means you’ll keep turning inwards and eventually become a hermit with no friends to speak of.
- Can you think of other combinations?
The reason work is listed so frequently is that work has become central to our lives in today’s economy, whether we like it or not. Hence, we often run into situations where there is a 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
Based on the exercise, are there any areas winning over other areas in your life? If so, what are the areas that are winning? What are the areas that are being neglected / put off?
Three things happen when we focus on only one area of our life:
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 will do very well in the former, but you will get nothing in the latter. I highlighted this in Step 2.
2. You impact the other areas
Each area impacts other areas. While this may not be obvious, it’s true.
Say you prioritize work over family. You want to do well at work to provide for your family and let them live in luxury. It seems to work – as you spend more time on work, you get more done. However, over time, your focus on work causes you to neglect those around you. This applies to friends, social connections 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 illnesses. If you’re not at the peak of your health, you can’t give your peak performance. That’s not the only consequence. If you gain weight, that might affect your self-image. You may feel less healthy, less attractive which lowers your self-confidence. You become self-conscious. This inadvertently spills over to 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 to work rather than spend some time with his family. On a daily basis, it seemed there was no real impact whatsoever.
However, each time he fast-forwarded to the 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 his bad eating habits. Fast forward another few years, and Donna had married the new guy. Michael got cancer as well as a heart attack in this period. These don’t just occur all of a sudden. They are issues culminated from your day-to-day actions.
Neglect may seem to cause no impact initially, but the difference shows over time. It’s like when you draw a line. If you deviate by 5 degrees, it may seem like a small thing. But keep extending that line and the difference becomes huge after some time.
What Should We Do Then?
What do we do then? It seems there is always a trade-off somehow. Between Work and Family, if you choose Work, that means you’ll accomplish a lot 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 get ahead because they put in extra hours at work. Either way, it seems you can’t win.
What should we do?
- Firstly, prioritize the areas that are most important to you at the moment. For some people, this may be 1) Family, 2) Work, 3) Health. For others, this may be 1) Love, 2) Work, 3) Money. Be clear of the priority between each area to you.
- While you’re working on what’s pressing now, such as making money or making a mark in your career, don’t neglect the other things. There is no need to develop a tunnel vision and do only one thing at the expense of everything else. For example, maybe you need to focus on Career right now. This doesn’t mean you need to work until 9pm every day of the week. You can still allocate some days for Family time and Rest.
- Constantly take a step back to look at your other life areas. Is there any area that seems to be falling behind? This means you should intervene and work on that before it gets worse.
- In the long term, build systems and processes to free up your time. For example, when you work on healthy living at first, it takes time to plan your meals and pick the healthy food. After a while, you become familiar with the steps to live healthily. Find ways to automate healthy living, such as ordering daily (healthy) meal subscription services. When working in a new job, you need to spend more time to learn new skills and establish yourself. After some time, you can reduce your time spent by working smart. Or if the job hours are problematic, switching to another job in the same field with better work hours.
Ultimately, all the areas of your life are important because they are extensions of you. If you’re always choosing one over another, you’re just denying a part of yourself. The key is to work towards a long-term vision where all life areas are maximized. This may involve sacrifices in the short term, but these sacrifices can be mitigated by (a) not developing tunnel vision, (b) good time management, and (c) working towards systems, processes, and good long-term decisions to achieve the best of both worlds.
Remember, our life areas don’t operate as silos. They are 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? Your long-term goals? Your children? Starting your business? Starting a family? 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 to 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 thing triumphs 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.