What are you optimizing for in your life? By that I mean what are you seeking when you make your daily decisions; are you striving to make the most money possible, to help the most amount of people, to gain the most amount of attention for yourself or maybe to create as much comfort or freedom for yourself as possible?
When you are presented with an opportunity what filter do you use to say yes or no?
My guess is most people probably answer that with a big “uh…I’m not sure”. I think that’s normal, at least I know it has been for me.
I think we all start doing things because we have to in order to make it and then after a while we just find ourselves doing, doing, doing without thinking about what we’re doing and more importantly why we’re doing it.
(Side note: I was listening to a podcast from Jeff Goins on his show This Portfolio Life which got me thinking about this topic, I think you might like it if you listen to podcasts.)
So how did we get here, to this point where we’re just doing things in our life but we’re not really aware of why? I think we have ambitions and obligations to meet so initially we just hustle to make ends meet. Then at some point things just go on autopilot.
Maybe an example from my life will help. I used to work at a bank and in the financial downturn I was fired. Not “let go”…not “down-sized”…just fired. (That was a big fat piece of humble pie for those of you who haven’t been there) They felt I wanted to be a real estate broker more than a banker and ultimately they were right….but it still stung. You don’t realize how much ego you have till someone shows you the door.
So I found myself out of work, with no source of income and my wife was 8 months pregnant with our second daughter. To quote Seinfeld….it was “go time”. I knew I wanted to be a full time real estate broker but there was no time to waste, it was time to hustle and make it work because I had obligations to meet at home. So I did. I did everything I could and I chased every potential client I could chase. Without even knowing it I was optimizing my life to make money to provide for my family. That didn’t mean I cut corners or did anything shady, it just meant I was trying to serve as many clients as possible to make the money I needed to get my business up and running. I would do anything I could and I was placing the importance of making money over freedom, hobbies, exercising, giving back and even spending time with my wife.
The hustle paid dividends and I was able to build up my business to a point where I could start to optimize my life for the things that were being neglected (family time, health, free time, etc). This is all still a work in progress (it’s not easy to shift gears!) but at least I am waking up to the fact that when I have an opportunity I don’t have to make that decision solely based on a financial need. I can also make that decision based on some other questions I ask myself. Does this opportunity put me closer to my vision for what I want in my life? Will it give me more time with family? Will it serve my clients in the best way possible? Will it be a distraction from other things I have committed to already? Will it throw me off balance or do I have the capacity?
When you ask yourself these questions and make the decision based on the honest answers it will benefit you and the person who came to you with the opportunity because you’ll have the right answer.
I have a solid vision for what I want my life to look like and I know what I’m optimizing for in my life. (It’s a big reason for my new company name “Focus Real Estate”, it’s about staying intentional and focusing on the right things in life and in my business.) Knowing what I’m optimizing for is a huge help, because if I didn’t have that vision for what I wanted I would just keep saying yes to things and I’d end up with a life I never wanted. People will fill my life for me if I just say yes to everything and my vision and my family will suffer the long term consequences.
So what are you optimizing for? If you don’t know that’s ok, at least you are now aware that you may be living on autopilot.
Maybe take some time to reflect. What do you want to be, do and have in your life? Knowing that will help you filter all your opportunities, you’ll know when to say yes and when to say no. And to quote Derek Sivers, “If you’re not saying hell yeah about something say no”. In other words be more selective, if you’re on the fence regarding an opportunity just pass on it. More will come along that fit your vision for your life even better.
It’s easy to just get in the weeds and work as hard as we can; plowing forward as fast as possible. But for what? If we don’t take the time to look up and see where we’re going we may be way off track. I know I get off track and have to step back and reflect to get back on the right path.
Pick what you’re optimizing your life for…freedom, money, family, impact, God’s will, helping others, changing the world, etc (it can be whatever you want!). Start making decisions based on your vision in mind. No matter what you choose to optimize your life for you’ll be better off compared to the alternative…just cruising on autopilot.