Rubies, Diamonds and Procrastination

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By Daniel Bobinski

It’s been said that a progressive realization of worthy goals propels people toward their vision of prosperity. Unfortunately, it’s easy to let the achievement of our larger goals get pushed aside in favor of smaller, more urgent activities. Our calendar gets full of good, urgent things, and it becomes a reason to procrastinate on achieving bigger things. 

Let me start by talking about good things and great things.

To move forward on the path of fulfillment and prosperity, I firmly believe we should understand one important fact: “Good” can be the enemy of “great.” Obviously, good things are not bad things, but if all we do is fill up our schedule doing good things, then there will never be time to do great things.

Obviously, good things are beneficial, but that can create another problem. If we feel that the good things we’re doing are good enough, then we have little motivation for achieving better things.

It’s kind of a unique phenomenon. I understand the need to be content with what one has, but one danger in becoming content with the good is that it can inhibit us from developing the drive to reach for our bigger dreams.

As Jim Collins says in his book, “Good to Great”:

“We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, primarily because it is easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of companies never become great precisely because they become quite good – and that is their main problem.”

This observation aligns with a story told to me long ago by a seasoned businessman. The analogy is that of a man who has a handful of rubies. He knows the stones are valuable, so he does not want to give them up. He firmly holds and cherishes the rubies in his hands. But then someone shows him a pile of diamonds and tells him he can keep whatever he can pick up with his hands. The dilemma? The man must let go of the rubies to pick up the diamonds.

What about you? Are you willing to give up that which is good to get that which is best?

You may think that quitting something that’s good is not good, but that’s not necessarily true. Seth Godin, in his book, “The Dip,” says that the phrase “winners never quit” is not true, because winners quit all the time. They will quit doing some of the good things in their lives so they have more time to do great things.

I’m guessing you can think of a few good things you are doing that fill up your calendar to the point where you don’t have time to do the great things you would like to do.

Over the years, I’ve come to see this as a form of procrastination. There’s a common problem in the human mindset: When people become content with doing good things, they can easily procrastinate on working toward what’s best. To address this, we can turn to a principle in Stephen Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” Covey says it’s natural to say yes to the good, so to move to more important things we simply need a bigger “yes.”

The idea of a bigger “yes” can be a great help when it comes to planning and goal setting for the great things we want to accomplish.

Do you have great things you want to accomplish but can’t seem to find the drive? Here are some ideas that may help you identify and act on your bigger yeses:

  • Get together with a trusted friend, family member, or co-worker and create a list of the benefits you’ll get by accomplishing your bigger dreams. This should not just be an academic exercise. The idea is to get emotionally connected to each benefit, because the stronger your emotional connection is to your core values, the more likely you are to act on your dreams.
  • If you find it difficult to see a bigger yes that would drive you to put the tasks for accomplishing that dream on your calendar, try thinking of the ripple effects of realizing your “great” things. What would the benefits be? Then, take it a step further to identify what the benefits would be of getting those benefits. Get a sense of what resonates within you as you imagine yourself achieving your greater goals and dreams.
  • If you find a bigger yes, then identify the task that will lead you to your greater goals and put them on your calendar. It’s a good idea to set up regular meetings with an accountability partner – or even two. These should be people who want to see you succeed. Ask them to help you stay on track for achieving your goals.

But beware! Procrastination can still be a problem, even if you have accountability partners. Here are a few ideas that may help:

  • Break down larger, overwhelming tasks into small ones. For example, if you want to write a two hundred-page book, don’t do it all at once. Write two pages a day and you’ll be done in just over three months.
  • Attach a “by when” to every action item. With a clearly identified time-of-completion you have a goal. Without that time-of-completion you only have an idea.
  • Choose one task and make it your day’s priority. Little things accomplished steadily over time create big things.

Bottom line, be willing to give up the rubies in your life if what you want is diamonds, and work with accountability partners to help you succeed along the way. Without these in place it’s way too easy to procrastinate and you may never achieve your dreams, especially if things in your life are “good enough.”

Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. runs two businesses. One helps teams and individuals learn how to use Emotional Intelligence. The other helps companies improve their training programs. He’s also a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. Reach him at daniel@eqfactor.net or 208-375-7606.

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