What is is about public lists that we like so much?
There’s the aspect of accountability that’s a big motivator. I’m not sure I would be nearly as motivated to finish things if I didn’t have thousands of people checking in on me every week.
There’s an element of voyeurism. People like to see what other people are trying (and sometimes failing) to do. It’s part of our natural instinct. That’s why people watching is so much fun.
I think there’s an element of pride in there as well. There’s something powerful about speaking your goals into existence and then setting out and making them happen. It feels good (and it should!) – look at what you accomplished! It’s a nice bonus to the feeling of accomplishment you’ve done for yourself.
But, we lose something every time we tell someone about our accomplishments. Every time we do, we give a little piece of that accomplishment away. We trade a little of the accomplishment for a little bit of recognition, a few accolades and a little bit of approval from whoever we tell it to.
This is a pretty easy trap to fall into:
- You start by doing impossible things because you want to. It feels good to challenge yourself.
- People notice, and congratulate you for your efforts. You feel good that other people approve.
- You appreciate the recognition and begin to do more impossible things that feel good to accomplish but also bring more recognition that feels good.
- You realize making people happy is a lot easier sometimes than doing impossible things.
- If you’re not careful, you start focusing on accolades instead of the impossible and instead of doing things for yourself, you realize you’re doing it for others.
Here’s a 5 second test if you find yourself in that situation: Ask yourself, “If no one was watching, would I still do this?” If the answer is no, you might need to step back and ask yourself why you’re doing all of this in the first place.
I’m all for helping others and being generous, but if you begin to do stuff because of what other people will think/do/say, you’re quickly back to square one of having your life simply being manipulated by your ego and having your actions determined by what you think other people will approve of.
I love accomplishing things. I love doing impossible stuff. I love checking things off my impossible list and I’m not going to stop. But, if I’m not careful, it gets very easy to get caught up in doing more & more things “just because”, instead of doing them because I’m genuinely excited about doing them.
So if you don’t stop completely, the questions becomes, “How do you avoid it?”
Climb A Mountain, Tell No One
Go pick something on your list. Anything.
Go do it.
And then…do something novel…
Tell No One*.
Don’t tweet about it. Don’t blog about it. Don’t write about it all over facebook.
Don’t tell your girlfriend, your mom, your boss, your brother. Anyone.
Resist the urge to tell somebody about it and gain some ancillary approval. You don’t need it.
Do it for you.
You can run a 5k, jump out of a plane, go bungee jumping, run your first race, learn to juggle, help someone out, learn to play an instrument, or face a lifelong fear. The activity itself doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s personal and meaningful to you and you do it for yourself.
Dont’ worry. I’m going to keep knocking things off the impossible list, one at a time, but I’m working on another list with a few things on it that I’m not going to share. They’re mine . If you’re in the same place, you should try it. There’s something incredibly motivating about having a few mysteries that you keep all to yourself.
Climb a mountain. Tell No One.
*Obviously, if you’re about to do something dangerous, be safe & tell someone about it. Yes, it’d be cool to get lost in the middle of a desert, get stuck and rescue yourself, but there’s already a movie about it. Also, it’s cooler to have two arms, so be careful.
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