We spend most of our time dealing with the most insistent issues, with the goals we've accepted, and with the questions already asked. Most of us spend very little time dealing with issues less insistent, goals unstated, or questions not asked. That things are as they are makes sense, until we question this way of setting priorities. Would we find a more important goal, a more pressing issue or a more unsettling question if we actually gave it a little thought?
Usually, the answer is 'Yes.' Usually, if we actually looked at where we're putting our energy, we'd put it somewhere else. Here are some reasons why we don't question our priorities more often.
- Some goals and ways of doing things are inherited from our predecessors. We might or might not be able to change those goals, but we rarely consider whether we can. Are there any inherited goals or processes that you could change? If you don't have the power to change them, have you sought that power?
- Habit determines much of what we do routinely. We travel to work in the same way, we eat the same lunches, and we socialize with the same people. How would life be different if we made different choices now and then? What new ideas might come our way?
- Sometimes we avoid the issues less insistent, the goals unstated, or the questions not asked because we fear what might happen if we examined them. Taking up a new issue can feel overwhelming. Abandoning a goal of long standing can feel like failure. Asking a new, unsettling question can create chaos. But all this has happened before, and life went on, often in a better direction. Isn't fear a problem in itself?
- Either Usually, if we actually looked
at where we're putting our
energy, we'd end up putting
it somewhere elsefrom past experience, or because of messages from others, or from fatigue, we conclude that the chances of progress are so slim that we don't even look at issues less insistent, or goals unstated, or questions not asked. Usually, there's at least one thing we could do — one thing that we really do have the power to change, if only we would do it. What's your one thing?
- We all have lots to do. Most of us feel we have no time to look for more to do. But the truth is that we don't have time not to, because looking for issues less insistent, or goals unstated, or questions not asked is the only way to be sure our priorities are right.
Some of these patterns affect you more than others. To discover which ones are your favorites, watch for missed opportunities. If you track which patterns kept you from the path to progress, you can learn which patterns affect you most. Or maybe you're just too busy for that. Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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Maybe it would be. And maybe not...
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 30: Avoiding Speed Bumps: II
- Many of the difficulties we encounter when working together don't create long-term harm, but they do cause delays, confusion, and frustration. Here's Part II of a little catalog of tactics for avoiding speed bumps. Available here and by RSS on November 30.
- And on December 7: Reaching Agreements in Technological Contexts
- Reaching consensus in technological contexts presents special challenges. Problems can arise from interactions between the technological elements of the issue at hand, and the social dynamics of the group addressing that issue. Here are three examples. Available here and by RSS on December 7.
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Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.