Archive for April, 2009
When I started this blog in the summer of 2007, one of my main goals was to have a continuing conversation about success, and redefining it as something internal rather than external. For me, success was about defining values, then consciously creating a life where those values play a central role.
I was (and still am) concerned that our popular culture generally offers much more destructive versions of success — our mass media touting consumer goods, physical appearances, and “important” titles as the ways to define our achievements in this life. Over and over in my life, I was seeing that conceiving of success as internal and values-driven led to more fulfillment and inner peace than any of the messages we continually receive about external measures of success and “having it all.”
As Gandhi famously said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” In my own words, when we feel we have enough — in the deepest and simplest sense — we can claim success. Which is not as easy as it sounds.
Suzy Welch’s new book, 10-10-10, is actually based on a very similar revelation and concept — that of creating a values-driven life, one decision at a time. Perhaps that’s why MotherTalk gave me the privilege of reviewing Welch’s latest book here at Having Enough. Welch’s premise is that by using a decision-making paradigm, 10-10-10, to guide us, we can “create a life of our own making” and live our life with meaning and peace of mind, rather than “letting our life live us.”
She came to the 10-10-10 idea when she was a working mother with young children, trying desperately to “have it all.” As she explains in her skilled and candid story-telling, it wasn’t working for her. She was stretched too thin, trying to hard, working too much, and still not fulfilling herself or the needs of her children. Something had to give.
And then, one day in Hawaii after a botched business trip (on which she tried to take three kids as “quiet companions” — ha!), she came up with 10-10-10. The concept is simple: for each decision you make, ask yourself, what are the consequences in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years? But, just like Having Enough, an idea that seems simple is actually more complex and profound than at first glance.
I admit, when I first received 10-10-10, I wondered if the concept was better suited for one of her columns than an entire book. How could she talk about this one decision-making procedure for 220 pages? But, then, I started to read, and what began to unfold was that 10-10-10 is actually much more than a pithy idea, but a values-driven system for creating our own success.
Welch illustrates, through myriad stories from her own life and others’, that not only can this system apply to various situations (from work to relationships to parenting) but it also, if used consistently, can keep you in check with your own life mission statement. In other words, if you apply the 10-10-10 principle (which really just means conjuring the short-, medium-, and long-term consequences of your actions) regularly in your life, you are basically forced to continually re-examine your deepest values and whether you are living by them. 10-10-10 seems to work in holding people accountable for their authenticity — which adds to happiness.
I haven’t had a major decsion to make in the week since I received and read 10-10-10, but I’m eager to try it. Welch’s many examples — the string of examples from her own life and the turning-point stories of other people’s use of the principle — have convinced me it is worth using.
As a career coach, I often urged clients to reflect on their values, and I often asked them to imagine how “their 80-year-old self” would look back on a decision (in the case of my clients, it was usually whether to stay in a PhD program or change careers!) — and this worked well for some people who could imagine that way. But I see how 10-10-10 gives a more specific and concrete method to examine values and decisions that even the skeptics can often get on board with.
It doesn’t take any certain value system to use — in fact, from her stories I gather that Welch and I actually have pretty different values on some fronts — and that is the beauty of her system. It only asks you to consider your own values, and how they play into each and every choice we make. I like it.
In short, 10-10-10 is worth checking out for Having Enough fans, for anyone who likes a good storyteller and a good idea, and for anyone who wants to live more authentically, in tune with their deepest values. Please let me know if you use it and how it works for you!
I keep thinking of this story I read about on Bullseye, Baby! a while back, so I just have to share it with you here. Please check out Jena Strong’s amazing telling of it, and her link to the full news story above, but here’s the short of it:
It’s about how a world-famous violinist (whom people pay hundreds of dollars a ticket to see on stage) played in a subway station, and the only people who stopped to really listen to his music were children — whose parents were trying to hurry them along.
I think about this often, and I try to remember to stop and pay attention when my three-year-old wants to show me a flower, or notices a reflection in a puddle — to remember the genius a child sees that we adults often miss (or think we must pay hundreds of dollars for).
Children give us a gift by noticing beauty that we pass by in all of our busyness. I’m trying to remember to accept that gift more often.
OK, if you have six minutes to spare and would like a little inspiration, check out this video of a British “spinster” showing some shallow-minded folks that it’s what’s inside that counts.
This woman is a true example of following your dreams, and not letting others’ judgements stop you (and she happens to sing one of my all-time favorite songs to boot!). She gave me chills.
I’ve started thinking a bit too much about the end of the world. I know, it’s morbid. And, yes, perhaps the postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation have something to do with it.
But, in our house, with Dad traveling more, a newborn, a needy toddler and a tired Mom, we’ve been slacking lately on our eco and Having Enough commitments. Letting the cloth napkins pile up and using paper ones, eating quesadillas more often than fresh vegetables, wanting things and buying things to fill holes that could be filled without spending money, standing in the shower way too long when I get one, letting the plastic (wraps, bags, toys) in, bit by bit, because we’re too tired to fight it.
It’s so easy to slip when we are overwhelmed and busy, to buy or eat or accept (or think) junk. Our consumer society actually counts on this. Alex and I re-viewed the enlightening The Story of Stuff recently to remind us of this fact, and help us get back on track.
In the big scheme, I know we are doing a decent job in our lifestlye. And I always applaud the eco activists who remind us that even they are not perfectly eco, and that we all must do what we can right now and be OK with that, and then improve one step at a time. I also always agree with the psychologists who tell people to be gentle with themselves when they are in transition, and to not “should” on and torture themselves when they aren’t doing everything as they want to be.
But, we have taken some steps back lately and I can feel the difference. It feels cluttery, kind of dirty, it smells like chemicals and tastes like processed food. It’s connected to my emotional state, which is not at its shiny finest as I struggle with the newness of trying to mother two children and the mixed blessing of my husband’s career moving up a notch. I am beating myself up more than usual, and I “shoulded” myself aloud today about our lack of composting, in front of some eco mom friends who promptly pounced on my “shoulding” and I felt even worse. Because I know better. On all fronts.
Things are a bit muddy right now — good, still, just muddy — for me. I have my foundational perspective of all that I have, of course — I look at my family and am only thankful — but I want to have more perspective, to feel clearer again, to feel that I have more to give, and that is a sign to me that I’m a bit off my center.
So, as I sit in the dark of night nursing my child, imagining which generation will finally pay the ultimate price for our heaps of trash and energy squandering and consumer culture — will they know the end of the Earth is near, or will it just up and implode one day? will it look like the movies where things get grey and dark and desperate? will they be humans like us or some other form of humans? — I realize I’m getting a little extreme, and maybe could use some more sleep.
Still, I will know I’m feeling back to my center when my cloth napkins are back on the table and the plastic bags out of my kitchen drawer, when I have a Netflix night with my husband, when I’m not obsessively envisioning the end of the world, and when I’m gentle with myself again. In other words, when I’m back to enough.