The life we lead depends in many ways on how we spend our time – our actions, when repeated, become habits. Those habits become behaviours that define our character, personality and identity.
It all comes down to our actions or pursuits.
Over the course of our work, we have identified patterns that form three key groups that we call the ‘three wolves’.
Understanding these three focus areas gives us clarity not only on how we spend our time but, more importantly, on how we should spend it.
For, in the end, we become what we dwell on – time, focus and energy.
1. The Crisis Wolf
The Crisis wolf wants us to spend our time on the immediate, the reactionary, the distraction. These crises commence as soon as we wake up and continue throughout our day. We look at our phones and get consumed by a disturbing email, a negative post on social media, or someone who cuts us off in traffic…the list of seemingly urgent disruptions is endless.
These triggers dictate our emotions, our focus our attention, and if they go unchecked can leave us exhausted at the end of the day with little to show for it.
The Crisis Wolf can take the form of an annoyed customer, a toxic co-worker or an unreasonable manager, each one in their way laying claim to how our day unfolds. At worst, they can break us or, at best, divert us away from more purposeful pursuits.
2. The Routine Wolf
The Routine Wolf is one of mediocrity. It is not as dangerous as the Crisis Wolf, but over time can also have adverse effects.
The Routine Wolf seeks the path of least resistance – getting by. It lures us into developing baseline habits with marginal improvements to our life and purpose.
As the name suggests, it loves the status quo, to repeat the same day over and over again with little growth over time.
It seeks to reduce our work and careers to just jobs – where we do what’s necessary and not much more.
When not working, our leisure patterns are also aimless: scrolling through endless social media, streaming television shows and YouTube; consuming alcohol; food delivery services; avoiding exercise and movement; not actively engaging in meaningful social relationships.
The Routine Wolf seeks comfort and pleasure now, procrastinating what we must do for what we can get away with. Whilst not seemingly as damaging as the Crisis Wolf, it snares us into an underwhelming subsistence. It steals our dreams!
3. The Aspirational Wolf
The Aspirational Wolf drives us to seek our higher purpose – our audacious goals. It does not settle for second-best. Instead, it yearns for excellence.
Each is born with unique strengths and abilities – so rare that no one that has ever lived or will ever live will be like us. We each have a passion and purpose.
Innate talents that can only be exploited with effort to achieve performance.
The Aspirational Wolf constantly reminds us of the opportunity cost of ceding to the distractions of life and the lure of everyday mediocrity.
It pushes us forward to achieve our full potential.
To do the difficult things, to abandon wasteful habits and form good ones instead. To stay focussed on accomplishing great things that are truly worth pursuing.
We are faced with choices every moment of our lives. The three wolves sit on our shoulders, each screaming for attention. It is up to us which wolf we feed.
Reactive distractions will always be with us, as will the temptation to do the least possible. But only when we give focus, time and energy to our higher aspirations will we get closer to fulfilling our dreams, realising our talents, leaving a legacy and living a full life.
1. LIMITING THE CRISES WOLF
Discipline is the key to limiting the constant distractions in our lives. Rather than checking social media, news or emails, starting the day with clarity of mind and taking time to consider our goals, priorities, and plans is a good first step.
This will provide us with a signpost that we can return to, when emotional and uncontrollable deviations inevitable occur as the day unfolds.
If resolving issues or dealing with reactive events is part of our role, quarantining the time we spend and when we spend it can be very useful.
2. FIGHTING THE ROUTINE WOLF
Adopting good habits and abandoning bad ones help fight the routine wolf. Whilst a lot easier said than done, this simple strategy can be life changing. I take a snapshot or pulse check of my week once every 13-weeks to see how I spend my time, energy and focus. What are my routines? What are my bad habits that I need to stop or do less of. What are the good habits that I need to start or do more of. Where is complacency creeping in?
By simply logging what we do, whether it is our time, our food habits, our exercise and mobility, our friendships and social interactions, our mindfulness or spirituality, our spending and what we do at work or to achieve our goals we gain valuable information even a reality check on what are doing compared to what we should be doing.
3. FEEDING THE ASPIRATIONAL WOLF
Achieving our aspirational goals or fulfilling our higher purpose starts with taking responsibility for our actions, our efforts, our results and where we are at and avoiding the temptation to blame others or our circumstances.
What will my life be like if I don’t change?
What are my goals? Do I have clear written goals for the next 12 months? What am I going to do every day to achieve them?
Scheduling these priorities into my weekly calendar and having the discipline of following through regardless of the disruptions and the mundane cadence of life is critical in accomplishing them.
Intentions are of no value if we don’t take action. It doesn’t matter if we are facing the right direction if we are not moving forward.
Making a start, taking baby steps, developing a streak and eventually forming routines and habits that chip away towards our aspirations is the key. The compounding effect of incremental improvements is by far the most powerful way to achieve our ultimate goals.