An extraordinarily talented and highly recognized actress and writer called me last week. She sent me a list of 15-plus projects she wants to work on. Now. All at once.
How does she prioritize? Why should she?
Such good questions I’ve been living and working in for years. In fact, I spent much of 2012 addressing yet again these questions for myself, my projects, and my business.
Last question first. Why select and prioritize?
Potential is finite.
Potential cannot be plugged in. It requires concentrated work and choices to fulfill it.
I’ve read and appreciate the conversation about polymaths and poly-talents and how a person doesn’t have to choose just one passion or one calling. I get that.
But the advice offered often is not founded on what actually is shown to help people surrounded by so many open doors. A person can actually feel more anxious when told she can go through and should go through four doors simultaneously.
6 months, 12 months, 5 years later, she’ll likely still be frustrated.
We biological creatures with a remarkable brain and central nervous system only have so much physical energy and blood sugar. High focus, high creative work, and high emotions all burn blood sugar and occupy space in that citadel of focus, the prefrontal cortex. It’s really that simple.
Dissipated energy, focus, and creative activity over several years lead to what we call “burn out.” And burn out refers to the state of the body’s blood sugar being spent, to the prefrontal cortex’s wirings going haywire, to the body’s cells being fatigued by high releases of cortisol and adrenaline in its do-good efforts to keep up with a poly-talented person trying to pursue 18 different paths all at the same time.
Potential can be harnessed. It begs to be harnessed. This is creative Yoga with a capital “Y.”
But even though the reason why we human beings need to harness potential is simple, doing so is less so.
So, to the first question. How?
And you also can heed three knowledge points to harness your potential. These three knowledge points give me daily guidance. They also help the authors, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals with whom I work.
1. Know your horizon.
Where do you want to be one year, two years from now? Why? How will you feel then that you don’t feel now? Are you truly devoted to that horizon? Are you willing to stand in with it, through thick and thin? Or is this impassioned fantasia?
2. Know your patch of the planet.
Imagine one person who is the essence of the audience your work engages. Who is she? How old is he? What do she want? What does his heart sing for? Hear that song. Listen. And make accordingly.
This is who it’s for. How will pursuing your horizon lead to your engaging and enchanting them?
3. Know your native strengths that will be torqued.
What will pursuing your horizon require of you to learn, hone, pursue mastery of? What skills? States of mind? States of body? States of heart?
How will pursuing excellence bring out the best in you? What is that best-ness?
Aristotle and his compadres called the pursuit of excellence arete. It’s cultivating your potential every step of the way, every single day. He also described us as having numerous daimons – or forces – within us. When those daimons work in harmony, we experience eudaimonia, happiness. (You can get this in his Ethics. It’s worth the read.)
Try to climb eight mountains simultaneously, and you’ll flounder and get lost.
Home in on the singular mountain that best answers the three knowledge points above, and you stand a far greater chance of harnessing what’s truly your power.
At least that’s been my experience and the experience of the extraordinary people with whom I work.
As for the client in question, we used these knowledge points and other heart-ful and financial criteria to create her Project Stove with three categories – Front-, Mid-, and Back-burner. We’re starting a Creative Action plan complete with an experiment to track and sculpt her time using the Mind Rooms Method.
For now: anxiety diminished, enthusiasm amped, potential slowly harnessed and ultimately realized.
I’d love your take. How does what I say jibe with your experience and knowledge?
Thanks for running with me,