Darren Lawrence

Too much to do, and striving for perfection…

One of my oldest friends recently suggested I should start a blog in support of my business, so here is my first attempt! I hope you enjoy reading and, if not, you can blame him.

Getting There, Still Lots To Do

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, I was cutting the front lawn and a passing dog walker remarked ‘All looking very smart!’ I smiled and replied ‘Getting there. Still lots to do!’

It was a casual exchange between two strangers but as he walked away it struck me that although I was talking about the garden, it could’ve been applied to many areas of my life.

In my work as a consultant in sport and as a personal development coach, I have faced some challenges since leaving The FA and setting up my business and, 9 months in, whilst I’ve made progress, I am still not quite where I want to be.

But then, are any of us where we want to be? As I am beginning to realise, there will never be a time when everything will be done. We will never get everything to a point where it’s all where we want it – there is always too much to do. Of course, that doesn’t mean we should give up, but perhaps we shouldn’t give ourselves such a hard time about it. With so many things to juggle personally and professionally (work, relationships, children, family, friends, time for ourselves etc) it is inevitable that some areas will not be how we want them to be. So, how do we deal with and accept that and be content to feel ‘I’ve done enough’, whilst remembering to have fun and ‘enjoy the ride’ – after all that’s what it should be about, right? Why get stressed about things we just aren’t able to do, often for reasons out of our control?

Do One Thing Well

If I have a to-do list with 12 things on it, I am stressed, distracted, preoccupied, and the end result is that by the end of the day I may have tackled 3-4 things on the list quite badly. I feel frustrated and unfulfilled and I am still no closer to completing any of the tasks, spreading myself too thinly. There is growing evidence about the negative impact of multi-tasking, suggesting that it is not how the human brain is conditioned. Rather than worrying about the 12 things on the list, if I take time to prioritise say the top 2 or 3 things for that day, and focus on the most important one first, the effect is very different. I am less stressed, more focused, enjoy being immersed in the detail of that one thing and also get a sense of progress, momentum and achievement when it’s done.

We all have the same 24 hours in each day, so how is it that some people seem to achieve so much more than we do, and others never fulfil their potential? The answer is likely to be because the achievers have identified and then are able to focus on the one thing that is most important and will get them the results they want. This will differ depending on your life, workplace, responsibilities etc. But in my view it is about prioritising, and doing the next thing to take you one step closer – whatever that step or thing is. Brian Tracy’s ‘Eat That Frog’ famously talks about tackling the most difficult, unattractive task first (the frog) which sets up the rest of your day in a positive way.

How do we work out what is important? Some of you may have seen the ‘Jar of Life’ video. This has recently been circulating on Facebook and the message is a well versed but thought-provoking one. If you’ve not seen it before, here is the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqD4xlan-w8

In coaching, a question often used is the ‘rocking chair test’ which asks, when you are 80 years old and in your rocking chair, what things in your life will you be most proud of, what do you want to look back on? And what will you regret not doing, if you don’t do it now? This kind of exercise can help you prioritise and work out what is important to you.

Never Stop Learning

Last week on the school run, I asked my 5-year-old son:

‘What are you doing at school, Ted?’

‘Learning’, came the answer…and then he ran off through the school gates. What a comeback! He is too clever, and cheeky, by half.

Having reached the age of 40, I have a certain amount of life experience but in all honesty I am still learning every day, and it’s a little bit of a cliché but we never stop learning.

For me the key point about how we approach task completion and perfection is that there are no right or wrong answers. Some of us will continue to strive for this elusive utopia, others will be content with good enough – whatever we judge that to be. People can tell you what to do or what they think, or you may see someone else’s life and think they have it all sorted out. You might aspire to be, do or have what you see in their lives.

You may see an inspirational quote, and think ‘That’s it! That’s what I need to do!’ Or you may feel slightly cynical about them. I think the issue with such quotes that you often see on social media is that they are generally out of context and are not able to convey the substance or depth of meaning. They can come across as soundbites masquerading as something more profound. I do find some of them helpful, and this can be an individual thing, after all none of us really knows what’s going on with another person inside, or what might help them, because we are not them. We are not living their life!

The Holy Grail of Perfection

People that know me well might say, ‘well your life isn’t perfect, so how can you talk about these things? How can you coach people if your own life isn’t perfect?’ And that’s the point really – no one is perfect. We are all works in progress. And there will always be too much to do. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying to improve.

I was recently working at a Sixth Form College where posted on a wall in the classroom was a poster stating that ‘FAIL’ stands for the First Attempt in Learning. The message was that if we don’t fail, we don’t learn – things can’t be perfect all the time.

Ultimately, we all have the responsibility to lead our own lives and you can use the tools and information available to you, you can speak to friends and family, read a helpful book (I found ‘Busy’ by Tony Crabbe very useful), or work with a coach. But only you can plot the right way forward for you, in whatever it is that you want to do. And in my opinion, it’s highly unlikely that every aspect of our lives will be perfect, we won’t get everything done, but it will be enough. And we should make our peace with that. And the next time a passer-by comments on my lawn, rather than thinking of everything else that needs to be done, I will just say ‘thank you!’

To finish – a motivational quote … ?

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.’’ 

Michael Altshuler

You may agree, you may disagree, you might not even have read this far! But if you have, please leave your comments or give any feedback as I would be interested in your thoughts, views and experiences about achieving perfection and getting things done.

f you would like to know more about personal coaching and the benefits it can bring, please contact me using the details above.

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