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A perspective on rubies, diamonds and procrastination

Dan Bobinski

A progressive realization of worthy goals propels people towards their vision of prosperity. Unfortunately, it’s easy to let business planning and goal-setting get pushed aside in favor of more “urgent” activities. It’s also easy to let “good” things get in the way of great things.

To move forward on your path to prosperity you should first recognize that “good” can be the enemy of “great.” Obviously, good things are not bad things, but if you feel that something is good enough, then you have little motivation for moving forward to make things better.

People often tell me their dreams, but then follow it up by saying that what they currently have is good enough. I understand the need to be content with what one has, but the danger in hanging on to the good is that we rarely reach for our bigger dreams.

As Jim Collins says in his book Good to Great:

“We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, primarily because it is easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of companies never become great precisely because they become quite good – and that is their main problem.”

This observation aligns with a story told me long ago by a seasoned businessman. The analogy is that of a man who has a handful of rubies. He knows the stones are valuable, so he does not want to give them up. But then someone shows him a pile of diamonds and tells him he can keep whatever he can pick up with his hands. The dilemma? The man must let go of the rubies to pick up the diamonds.

What about you? Are you willing to give up that which is good to get that which is best?

You may think that quitting something that’s good is not good, but that’s not necessarily true. Seth Godin, in his book The Dip, says that winners quit all the time. They quit doing some of the good things in their lives so they have more time to do great things.

The problem is that when people become satisfied with good things, they can easily procrastinate on working toward what’s best. To address this, we can turn to a principle in Stephen Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey says it’s natural to say yes to the good, so to move to more important things we simply need a bigger “yes.” To help identify and act on your bigger yeses, here are some ideas:

Get together with a trusted friend, family member or co-worker and list the benefits you’ll get by accomplishing your bigger dreams. This should not just be an academic exercise. The idea is to get emotionally connected to each benefit, because the stronger your emotional connection is to your core values the more likely you are to act on your dreams.

After you’ve identified your bigger yeses, set up regular meetings with an accountability partner or two. More than three people gets a little overwhelming, so find one or two other people who want to see you succeed and ask them to help you stay on track for meeting your goals.

Lastly, help yourself stay on track by keeping your tasks small and manageable. Procrastination is a very real obstacle, even if you have accountability partners, so here are a few ideas to help you overcome procrastination.

First, acknowledge that procrastinating creates unnecessary stress. In fact, one person I know says that procrastination is the opposite of success.

Second, break down larger, overwhelming tasks into small ones. For example, if you want to write a 200-page book, don’t do it all at once. Write two pages a day and you’ll be done in just over three months.

Third, attach a “by when” to every action item. With a clearly identified time-of-completion, you have a goal. Without that time-of-completion, you only have an idea.

Fourth, choose one task and make it your day’s priority. Little things accomplished steadily over time create big things.

Fifth, if you find yourself stuck, try using your moods to your advantage. For example, a woman I know once had a high-profile marketing proposal to write, but the words eluded her. Since she was more in the mood for talking with friends than writing her proposal, she called several friends and brainstormed various ideas for her proposal. These conversations revealed several new ideas and when she went back to writing her proposal the words just flowed.

Bottom line, be willing to give up the rubies in your life if what you want is diamonds, and work with accountability partners to help you succeed along the way. Without these in place it’s way too easy to procrastinate and you may never achieve your dreams, especially if things are “good enough.”

Dan Bobinski is director of the Center for Workplace Excellence and makes his home in Boise. Reach him at (208) 375-7606 or dan@workplace-excellence.com.

About Dan Bobinski

One comment

  1. Bob, you’re in the right place to preach this “happy-face” swill to the gullible & faithful. When it might be better to stir things up a bit, now that Idaho is officially closing in on Mississippi as dead last in per capita income in America.