Its hard for high-achieving people to accept that they can’t have it all. However, given the reality of trade-offs, we just can’t…at least not all at the same time.
High achieving people also usually have to learn the hard way that they are no exception to the reality described above; I know I have, and multiple times at that. It wasn’t until I asked myself “how much more of that pain do I want?” that I realized I had to start looking at life…and choosing….differently. Coming to this realization sooner is better because the damage done by the 2 x 4 you end up getting hit with is deeper and longer lasting as time goes on.
The real world is messy and you can’t do everything you want to do perfectly at the same time; you can’t simultaneously pursue all your goals or satisfy all of your desires. To think you can is pollyanna and an emotional drain (at a minimum) and simply setting yourself up for frustrations due to unmet expectations.
In their HBR article “No, You Can’t Have It All”, Eric Sinoway and Howard Stephenson (former chairman of Harvard Business Publishing) identified 7 dimensions of life most people value and have to consider in relation to one another:
- Social and Community
- Avocational (i.e. Hobbies)
As they rightly point out, the pursuit of a meaningful and multifaceted life requires ongoing and endless choices and trade-offs in these areas. In order to choose wisely and move your Needle in the right direction, you need an integrated vision of your legacy (that flows from essential intent) and what you aspire to in the present as a decision making guide. Both short-term and long-term considerations and consequences have to be considered.
Since trade-offs are a reality and by definition means you can’t choose to do or have everything (eg. do you want more pay or more time off?), then how do you best choose in a way that gets you closer to where you want to be? Sinoway recommends asking yourself the following 3 questions for each of the 7 life dimensions:
- Who do I want to be in this part of my life?
- How much do I wan’t to experience this dimension?
- Given my finite time, energy and resources, how important is this dimension relative to the others?
The real question is not how can we have or do it all, it is who will get to choose what we do and don’t do. Remember, no choice is a choice and when we forfeit our right to choose someone else will choose for us. Choose wisely.
As Howard’s mother often said to him: “Remember, that you may be able to have everything you want in life…just not all at once”.