Yesterday was a typical day for me. I had a variety of meetings with clients, internal meetings, got kids off to school, made meals, etc. It is probably a similar set of activities that many of you have. Many of us also worry about taxes, saving, budgets, what others have, and a myriad of other activities that impact our quality of life today and in the future.
As many of you may have heard yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to declare 22 animals and one plant extinct. This is the largest group of species declared extinct at one time since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973. According to the publication Nature, a UN report in 2019 notes that up to a million species of plants and animals may be extinct in the coming years, many in the next two decades.
What does worrying about my daily tasks have to do with extinction? As I was driving from one meeting to another yesterday and worrying about getting my list of things done, I heard this report and thought about how insignificant my worries really are when put into context. In recognition that my stresses are minor, I tried not to worry as much about tasks that I rationally realize are not as significant. But this morning, like clockwork, as I was trying to get everyone ready and out the door, my worries about my schedule and what I needed to achieve crept back in like the weeds in my garden.
I think that people, in general, are good about focusing on what is right in front of them and what needs attention now. However, most of us do a poorer job of attending to bigger issues that may not create a present crisis – especially when the issue is far too big for us as individuals or even for society to control. Our attitude is to worry about that later because we have so much to do now regardless of the magnitude of those future issues. We also think we have control over nearer term tasks and we think we can control the present. But as a parent of three teenagers, control is just a hope and not a reality.
Our excuses such as “no one else is doing anything so what difference can I make” sound like excuses that children make. As parents responding to a child who uses that excuse, we reply that of course you can make a difference and that if everyone had that attitude, big challenges would never be conquered. Perhaps if I try to counter my excuses this way, I might not stress as much about things that don’t matter and would act positively on things that matter a lot with the hope that a small effort by many can bring about change.
This week’s selection is:
Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing and Underliving by Celeste Headlee
Despite our constant search for new ways to optimize our bodies and minds for peak performance, human beings are working more instead of less, living harder not smarter, and becoming lonelier and more anxious. We strive for the absolute best in every aspect of our lives, ignoring what we do well naturally and reaching for a bar that keeps rising higher and higher. Why do we measure our time in terms of efficiency instead of meaning? Why can’t we just take a break? In Do Nothing, award-winning journalist Celeste Headlee illuminates a new path ahead, seeking to institute a global shift in our thinking so we can stop sabotaging our well-being, put work aside, and start living instead of doing. As it turns out, we’re searching for external solutions to an internal problem. We won’t find what we’re searching for in punishing diets, productivity apps, or the latest self-improvement schemes. Yet all is not lost—we just need to learn how to take time for ourselves, without agenda or profit, and redefine what is truly worthwhile.