“Planning is not about future choices. It is about the future of today’s choices. To create a compelling future, we can never settle for good enough.”
What does it mean to create a compelling future? The kind of future that pulls us forward into brand-new vistas and life experiences. What does compelling mean?
compelling means evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way. (c. 1600) “that compels,” present-participle adjective from compel. Meaning “demanding attention” is from 1901. Related: Compellingly.
The young woman glittered in gold on our masthead demands attention.
The meaning of “Demanding attention” grabbed me. Early this week, I offered a quote that I believed spoke to my soul.
“Without a strong vision for the future pulling us forward, we will always return to our past.”
The quote was good enough, but it was not great. It did not demand attention. I had been snared by the logic of the quote on my masthead. I had settled for good enough.
Allow me to lay a little foundation for our discussion. In goal achievement, I subscribe to the theory of better, not best. We should always strive for better but not be caught in the trap of waiting for the unattainable “best.” What is “best” can be very subjective.
However, better means never settling for what we know is good enough. The compromise of good enough eats at us from the inside, devouring our souls. Why am I making these distinctions? There is a gap between planning and achieving our desires. It is the gap between intention and action.
Think about it. We plan first. Make the plan specific and time/place dependent, let our smartphone software be a reminder by doing some of the thinking, and then move on to other tasks. Weakness of will is always possible when we’re in the gap between intention and action. Eureka! The reason for my distinctions is the weakness of will that causes us to settle for good enough when greatness is probable. Later, we wonder why our choice turned out so badly. Today’s choice was just good enough.
Most of the time, we define procrastination (a weakness of will) as a gap between intention and action. Have you experienced that gap? The irrational state that we call procrastination. Knowing we should act and understanding the consequences of inaction. The nature of our irrationality is rarely discussed.
The philosopher John Searle has lots to say about this gap and rationality. In his book, Rationality in Action (2001, MIT Press), he explained the gap as necessary for us to understand rationality and what it does. He writes, “. . . . unless we presuppose that there is a gap, we cannot get started with the process of rational decision making.”
Ignoring psychological obsessions and addictions, let’s focus on voluntary action. We define procrastination as the voluntary delay of an intended act despite knowing the potential for negative consequences. We choose to delay our action despite knowing I’ll probably be worse off. This is the irrational and self-defeating choice of procrastination.
We must deliberate on our choices and decide what to do.
We take in copious amounts of information articulating strategies and our need for action. We even believe in the strategy. However, desires and beliefs don’t lead us to act on them. This is the “weakness of will” gap.
Searle writes, “. . . the gap is that feature of our conscious decision making and acting where we sense alternative future decisions and actions as causally open to us” (p. 62). By sensing other future options, we do not have sufficient cause to create intentional action. This is the gap.
Searle writes that “. . . no matter how perfectly you structure the antecedents of your action, weakness of will is always possible. . . . Weakness of will arises simply from the fact that at any point the gap provides an indefinitely large range of choices open to me and some of them will seem attractive even if I have already made up my mind to refuse them . . .the causes still do not set sufficient conditions, and this opens the way for the weakness of will” (p. 25).
How many of us date people we KNOW are not keepers to fend off loneliness? What are we praying for? That they will somehow morph into our soulmates. Really? And while we are dating Mr. Right Now, we are not making space for Mr. Right!
Two objects cannot occupy the same space. It was called a crash. So while you are dating Mr. Right Now, Mr. Right has no parking place.
We must create space for “better” to inhabit. It is easier for us to rationalize keeping Mr. Right Now in our “weakness of will” gap as a “good enough” choice. Along with the few extra pounds from the last holiday season, the clothes we don’t wear packing our closet, and the bad habits that drive down our self-esteem next to the stack of books we will read someday. Our lives are cluttered with “good enough” to the point of choking us.
Ready for the emotional and mental bridge over the gap between our weakness of will (settling for good enough) and pursuing our version of better?
We must transform our inner dialog from I SHOULD…..into I MUST. Mr. Right Now must go because I must create space for Mr. Right. I must eat better to lose these extra pounds. Using the word “must” ends our inner deliberations. Our options (illusions) hovering around “I should” are gone instantly.
Doesn’t “must” feel uncomfortable? As if someone is making us do something contrary to our free will. The word “must” demands our attention; it is very compelling as if our lives depend on it because our lives depend on our actions.
The word “must” transforms our lives instantly—our momentum and leverage on our “weakness of will” gap bridge intention and action. We are now moving in the direction of our personal better.
“You must expect things from yourself before you can do them.” – Michael Jordan
Until next time. Travel safe.