Think about a compass and a clock two very important tools, but two very different instruments. A compass provides a sense of direction, purpose, vision, perspective, and balance. A clock measures duration and the expenditure of time. A compass determines effectiveness-doing the right tasks. A clock determines efficiency-how long it takes to accomplish a task. Both have their place. However, the compass must precede the clock. Direction/destiny must be established before we allocate the use of our time. How I use my time must be subordinate to the priorities that I set for my life.
Think of the compass as a symbol of an internal guidance system that provides us with our values and convictions. These non-negotiables should govern our lives.
Unfortunately, convictions are being eroded and we are drifting on the sea of life without a rudder to direct us. From my perspective there are three main saboteurs of conviction.
Number one is hedonism that is encapsulated in the question, “Are we having fun yet?” We are a culture that spends billions of dollars trying to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. In recent years our courts have been trying to assess “hedonic damages.” In other words, what dollar figure can we put on our loss of pleasure. We shun perseverance and endurance in favor of immediate gain and self-indulging pleasure.
The second enemy of convictions is pragmatism. This mindset shifts us from principle to what is workable or profitable. The pragmatist is prone to say, “Nothing succeeds like success.” I become the definition of my own success. The pragmatist says, “Show me the tricks of the trade.” The man of conviction says, “Forget the tricks and I will show you the trade.” The pragmatist says, “Does it work?” The man of conviction says, “Was it done right?”
The third enemy of convictions is utilitarianism. When my success is the ultimate goal, I will use whatever means is possible to get there. People become stepping stones to advance my career. My relationship to you hinges on your usefulness to me.
In Rights Talk, Harvard law professor, Mary Ann Glendon says that people to day use the language of rights to give moral force to what are merely personal desires. We have moved from objective external law to subjective internal law – “Does it feel right?” “Does it feel good?” When everyone does that which is right in their own eyes we have a culture of chaos, confusion, and competition. This creates a climate for the emergence of force and power.
Convictions without a clock can lead to frustration and inefficiency. The clock helps us to keep our priorities in balance. I want to suggest three filters that help us assess the use of our time.
Number one — Adjust your definition of success. My broad definition of success is leaving a place, person, or organization in better condition than I found it. I call this the goodness filter. Does the investment of my time bring added value to where I have deposited it?
Number two — Am I in the right place at the right time doing the right job? In other words, does the investment of my time contribute to the fulfilling of my responsibility? In answering that I need to know to whom I am accountable for what?
Number three — Would I want my son or daughter to walk in my footsteps? Does integrity permeate the whole of my life? Doing the right job must be circumscribed with doing the job right within moral boundaries.
Two essentials for life: A compass to keep us on course and clock to keep our time adjusted to our priorities. A compass without a clock leads to frustration and the dissipation of our assets. A clock without a compass results in emptiness and disappointment. Get the two together and you will have greater enjoyment and fulfillment and I’m confident I’ll see you at the top.