Chasing Our Tails

Craig Harper
 


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Ever feel like you're doing a whole lot of nothing in particular?

Very busy achieving not much at all?

Going around in circles (professionally, emotionally, socially, financially, physically)?

Make a decision, don't follow through on it?
Lose weight, put it back on?
Save a bit of money, spend more?
Stand up for yourself, compromise yourself?
Two steps forward, three back?
Get motivated, get unmotivated?

One day you wake up, you're five years older, doing the same dumb things, making the same mistakes, still got the same issues (and a few more), got $9.70 in the bank, you're busier than ever and you're still unfulfilled, directionless and frustrated. Still chasing your tail.

Other than that. . . things are great.

They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

That's what many of us do.
We know it's dumb.
But we do it anyway.

And while we intellectually understand the ‘if we want to be different, we need to do different’ concept, too many of us seem to be trapped in this perpetual cycle of frustration.

Tail chasing 101.

Yesterday morning I spoke with a bloke whose life is chaotic to say the least. Chaotic and unfulfilling.

He works three jobs (two part-time), spends at least two hours a day travelling to and from those jobs, studies part time, has a girlfriend he hardly sees, is overweight, is perpetually starting and stopping weight-loss endeavours and fitness campaigns, constantly beats himself up because of his lack of will-power, doesn't eat. . . then eats too much, is frustrated, has got no money in the bank despite his three jobs, is still paying off a debt for a failed business venture and generally. . . . is one miserable, frustrated puppy.

He's got fifteen balls in the air. . . and he can't even juggle!

As I was chatting with him I began to see how hard he was doing life. He was driven to get ahead. But not in a productive, clever, this-is-fun-and-rewarding-kind of way, more in a. . . ‘kill-yerself-by-the-time-yer-thirty-five’ . . . kind of way. More in a. . . ‘go-like-crazy-until-you- fall-down-from-exhaustion’. . . . kind of way.

If you looked up the word disorganised, you'd see a picture of him.
He had no (smart) plan.
He had chaos.

It got me to thinking about the amazing ability we all have to chase our tails.

I have gone through moments in my personal journey and with the evolution of my business where I have felt like I was constantly chasing my tail; investing way too much time and energy, for way too little return on my investment.

Here's what I've learned:

(1) We can't do ten things (well) at the same time (we think we can, we can't). When we spread ourselves too thin (time, energy, resources) we tend to do ten things badly rather than a few things well. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in business is the importance of surrounding myself with great people who have the skills, abilities, time and knowledge that I don't. . . . and then letting them do what I can't. If you don't have the luxury of helpers (as I haven't for most of my life) then it is crucial that you prioritise, do some things well and put other things on hold. Don't do ten things badly.

(2) It is crucial that we get space, clarity, perspective and distance from our daily grind. It's impossible to be objective about it. . . when we're in it. Sometimes when we're away from our typical situation is when we're in the best head-space and make the best (big picture) decisions. Ever noticed how much clarity and perspective you get about your life / career / relationships when you're on holidays or away from your ‘normal’ situation.

(3) Be still.

And quiet.
Stop the rushing.
Stop the tail chasing.
For a moment. . . or several moments.
Step out of the chaos and the repetition, even for an hour.
Regularly.
Pray, read, meditate. . . explore the spiritual you.
Turn off the phone, the TV, the computer (you'll be okay), the noise and listen.
Listen to that still, small voice.
Stop drowning out the real you with mayhem.
Stop stunting your own growth and development with unproductive, un-rewarding busy-ness.
Find a place where you can turn the switch to ‘off’ and just be.

When I am quiet and still is when I really hear from. . . . me.

(4) Use a mentor, friend, coach to help you gain perspective amongst the chaos. And find someone who won't tell you what you want to hear. Find someone like me who cares. . but is blunt, periodically offensive(!) and honest. Short term pain. . . for some long term gain. Too many people surround themselves with ‘fans’ who constantly tell them what they want they want to hear. When you ask for feedback, don't ask with your fingers in your ears. In a staff meeting a few years ago I asked my staff how I needed to change to become a better boss. They told me. Mmm, there's a reality check for you.

(5) An oldie but a goodie: work smarter not (necessarily) harder. Some of us have this dumb belief that we need to sweat, grind and suffer our way to the top. Some discomfort is necessary (as we've discussed) but hey, making it harder than it needs to be is just silly! For a long time I made my life harder than it needed to be because I didn't make the best use of my time or skills. I created additional, unnecessary work and hardship for myself. Ask yourself these three questions:

a) Am I doing this (whatever this is) the most effective way?
b) What can I do right now to change my situation (or at least start the wheels turning)?
c) How does my attitude (beliefs, perspective) contribute to the cycle of frustration?

(6) As boring and obvious as this piece of advice is. . . many of us still don't do it ( I hate sounding like a typical Personal Development type, so forgive me):

Set goals, have to-do lists, create plans, work to a schedule. . .be structured and organised. . so that your productivity is up and your frustration is down. Most people don't goal set, plan or manage time effectively (if at all). Don't get up tomorrow and do what you did today. . . just because that's what you've always done.

If you always do what you've always done. . . you'll always get what you've always got!

If you have been a habitual tail-chaser, perhaps today (now even) might be the time to stop.

Craig Harper (B. Ex. Sci. ) is an Australian motivational speaker, qualified exercise scientist, author, columnist, radio presenter, and owner of one of the largest personal training centres in the world.

He can be heard weekly on Australian Radio SEN 1116 and GOLD FM and appears on Australian television on Network Ten's 9AM.

Motivation - Craig Harper

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