In our book, The 3Gaps – The Journey to Inner Peace, one of those gaps deals with productivity. There are lots of ways to define that concept. We’ve simply said that productivity is doing the right things at the right time. Which leads to the question, “What are the right things?” They’re different for every person but, in their most elemental form, always the same.
The right things, when it comes to productivity and life, are those things that close the gaps between your values and your daily choices, your beliefs and reality and your plans and your dreams. In other words there is a standard that you make yours – by identifying what you value, what you believe and what your dreams are. You then use productivity tools to help you close the gaps between where you are and where your values, beliefs and dreams want you to be.
One of the concepts, essential to this approach to productivity lies in the idea of control. Our lives are made up of events. We cannot control the events but we can control or shape our response to them. And it is in that shaping that we close gaps and create the foundations for inner peace to replace chaos in our lives.
We call this approach to shaping our responses to events – “above or below the line”. Imagine a horizontal line, extending from one side of this page to the other. The left side of the line represents things over which I have no control, the middle – some control and the far right side of the line/page total control. Remember, I can’t control the events but I can shape my response.
Now, with this line, in place and labeled, write the following three words ABOVE the line, moving from the left/no control through the middle/some control to the right/total control. The words are:
- Adapt – No Control
- Influence – Some Control
- Act – Total Control
As we confront events, in all three categories of control, we can choose/shape our responses to those events. How we choose fundamentally impacts whether it is a day of inner peace or chaos. Choose to adapt, influence and act and you’ll have more inner peace than chaos – even if the events are in chaos.
Now, place the following labels BELOW the line.
- Whine – No Control
- Manipulate – Some Control
- Procrastinate – Total Control
It takes as much time, energy and resources to make the choices that live below the line as above. It can sometimes feel “easier” to go below the line but, ultimately, below the line choices drive an increase in chaos and a decrease in inner peace.
There appears, on first experience with this approach, to be a flaw in the model. That flaw is with Influence. As a general rule, anything that involves other people (most of life) is a “some control” event. But, experience tells us we can’t influence everyone we engage with. So what do we do when influence fails? You pick your battles.
If the issue is one of importance or principle to you and influence fails then act – keep pushing, demand it, require it – and deal with the consequences. If it is not that important then adapt – let it go. In other words, “pick your battles”.
As you go through the day every time you confront a decision – minor and mundane or major and substantial – ask yourself, in your mind, two questions:
- What type of event is this? ( no control, some control, total control)
- How do I stay above the line? (adapt, influence, act)
And expect, with some time and practice – this is as much art as science – to find more “inner peace” even in the most chaotic of circumstances. Give it a try. You might snag some unexpected inner peace, starting today.