“Have you ever felt motion sickness rather than momentum?”
The summer before my junior year in high school, I realized I was only made of half-hearted pursuits. I wanted to be more than that. I wanted to be a solid collection of passions I could count off on three fingers or more; I needed something to define me. I immediately began setting a web of short-term goals.
Results came slowly, until I began to see goal-reaching as a game of daily successes. Obstacles dissolved so easily that I achieved things not even on my agenda; I walked right into opportunities that no one had taken yet, simply because no one else had gone that “extra mile”.
This growing web was exhilarating; the more I challenged myself, the more people, organizations, ideas, and places opened up for me. I was volunteering for people, and they were, in turn, volunteering me for fantastic opportunities I didn’t know existed. I felt needed, I felt successful, and I felt fulfilled. No longer was I an untouched list of errands. My network was throwing me in the company of people who knew my name before I could even ask for theirs.
I thought I was keeping up.
Fact: I was not actually keeping up.
Halfway through my freshman year in college, I realized my agenda was dragging me painfully from my Monday 8ams, to my short-lived weekends which were more like three-day catch-up games. I always woke up at the beginning of another week, shocked that Monday was already staring me in the face. I looked hopelessly at my calendar app and the rainbow of overlapping events.
Somewhere along the way, they had all become half-hearted interests again. How was I supposed to call them passions, when the only way I found time for them was by squeezing three daily reminders into my calendar? Opportunities smelled like chores, signing up for anything was making a hollow promise, and I was volunteering solely as an opportunist (not out of the kindness of my heart).
My calendar was no longer a tool, but my boss.
That morning I decided to end the catch-up game. I held up my hand and once again counted off my top three priorities. Dozens of other priorities fought for attention, reeking of obligation and potentially wasted opportunity. But I looked at the three fingers I had just counted off, and I smiled. Progress was going to come so much more easily now, because of all the extra weight I had just thrown off.
Immediately, my weekends started looking like weekends again.
I found time again for lunch on a daily basis, I had meaningful conversations with the friends I’d seen so little of, and progress began moving at an astonishing rate. Of course, opportunity always presents itself to the moving, and luck will favor the prepared. Lists, as they are made to do, will grow, and errands will all vie for my breath, my time, and my energy. But whenever my mind gets tired with the weight of an overlapping calendar and progress is almost nonexistent despite my perpetual busyness, I always know that the stress has a remedy in three-finger priorities.
Without simplicity, I would only have a mess of misplaced ambition where direction is supposed to be.