The Fallacy Of Thinking Any Of It Is Temporary


It took me almost 40 years of breathing on this planet to really understand something that now seems stupid basic.

There is no such thing as “temporary.”

One of the guiding beliefs I had when I was going through my undergraduate years was, “I can do anything for 10 weeks.” Ten weeks was about the length of a typical college quarter. I was going full tilt to get it done as quickly as possible. After this temporary interruption was over I could resume my normal schedule.

So, that’s what I did. I went at my version of full speed for a few years. Summer classes? Yes! Twenty credit or more quarters? Yes! Working part or full time in addition? Yes!

Whatever was in front of me during that time I was going to grab on to and get it marked “done.”

During this time my schedule tightened up dramatically from what it had been. All of it would be OK though, because it’s only temporary!

I was reminded of this time in my life, and my old belief system, after reading this Thought Catalog article by author Ryan Holiday – “To Everyone Who Asks For ‘Just A Little’ Of Your Time: Here’s What It Costs To Say Yes.”

Ryan is making the case for arranging your days with intention and attention.

Here’s what that intention looks like for Ryan:

I want as absolutely little in my calendar as possible. I’m meticulous about it. Whatever the least amount possible I can have in my calendar without killing my career—that’s what I want.

To be clear, this isn’t some nonsense about not putting things in the calendar, like someone who says they’re on a diet but eats a lot. This is about committing to and scheduling next to nothing on a daily and weekly basis.

I really enjoyed this article, but not for the reason you might think.

It seems very modern and cool to be the type of person that needs to carefully manage all of the adoring people that want just a bit of our time. Each of us feels significant when we have people wanting our time and attention.

We feel for a moment like the movie star who can’t be bothered with autographs, or the really important mid-level manager who can’t spare a few minutes for conversation with the administrative staff.

But I didn’t like this article because I could commiserate with another person who has more requests for time than time available for requests.

I liked this article because Ryan is helping me better illustrate something that I am not sure many of us truly understand. I certainly didn’t understand it until recently.

There is no such thing as temporary!

What is happening each and every day is just your life.

Allow me a moment to explain.

Sometimes the news of the moment is so “good” that news outlets must break into what is already airing on TV to give you an update. Have you ever DVR’ed something only to find that some important news of day superseded the show you wanted to watch? I have. I remember an old phrase they used to say at the end of these important interruptions – “we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.”

Earlier in my life I had the notion that undergoing something temporary was fine because it was for the greater good. The belief was that at some point the temporary would end and I could resume my regularly scheduled programming. This mindset could be characterized as regularly scheduled programming allowing for temporary interruption.

What Ryan is talking about in his article is the concept of meticulously maintaining his calendar to have as few commitments as he can get away with. Commitments interrupt his work and the way he works best. This mindset could be characterized as regularly scheduled programming disallowing for temporary interruption.

Both of these ways of viewing the world misses a broader point though. A point that I desperately hope will seep into your mind finding a slightly open door to a room where your curiosity is milling about.

The broader point is that anything temporary in your life – whether it is from too much on your calendar, or too many classes, or too much work, or too much (fill in the blank) is not temporary.

It is just your life.

What I realized after almost 40 years of breathing on this planet was that there is no regularly scheduled programming.

My life is a bunch of temporary things all stacked on top of one another. They layer on top of one another.

I get an extra project at work – put in the effort now, it’s only temporary. I sign my kids up for swimming classes – that’s just a few weeks of driving them back and forth. I agree to the standing meeting on setting up the new office wide policy – just a few days until that’s over. I sign up for a half-marathon – only six months of training.

Do you see a pattern here?

There are actually two patterns. The first is that all of these things could be considered as temporary. They have start dates and end dates. The second is that each of the sentences starts with “I.” Nobody is holding a gun to my head on any of these items. They are choices. Choices about how to spend my time.

When I had this revelation that nothing is temporary, a small change in my thinking took place.

One small change.

I realized that my life is really made up of a bunch of temporary activities. And all these activities then work together to create each day. Some of these temporary activities are just starting. Some are mid-stream. Some are ending. Some activities are still out on the horizon. Some are far behind me.

That realization then led to another realization.

If my life is just layers of temporary activities, then I need to supply the attention and intention about how these temporary activities come into existence in the first place. I need to get way more intentional about which activities I should participate in and which should be set aside.

Why is that important you ask?

In the article, Ryan goes on to say:

Time? Time is our most irreplaceable asset—we cannot buy more of it. We cannot get a second of it back. We can only hope to waste as little as possible. Yet somehow we treat it as most renewable of all resources.

And that’s really what we are talking about here. The concept of time.

Treating time like a non-renewable resource means we understand that temporary is actually permanent. What we do today is a permanent entry on the official record.

We are allotted only so much time, so how should it be spent?

If you viewed nothing in your life as temporary, how would you make different choices?

This is important because *NEWSFLASH* whatever you are doing today is your regularly scheduled programming.

by Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan is the Head Coach at Sandcastle Company, a Seattle-based leadership training organization. His first book, Future Leader: Rebooting Leadership to Win the Millennial and Tech Future [link], is now available. Jonathan regularly writes and speaks about The New Leader Way, leadership resilience, and the future of work. He has years of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors, a master's degree from Seattle University, and professional coach training from the University of Miami.
Published on March 26, 2017

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