I'm continuing to write a set of Sunday posts that revisit in turn the ideas Tony Schwartz offered in "Turning 60: The twelve most important lessons I've learned so far". This week, I'm considering the seventh of Schwartz's observations:
The more behaviors you intentionally make automatic in your life, the more you'll get done. If you have to think about doing something each time you do it, you probably won't do it for very long. The trick is to get more things done using less energy and conscious self-control. How often do you forget to brush your teeth?
As you'd imagine, I'm a fan of most of what Schwartz wrote in his post. In this case, I'd have preferred a change in one small turn of phrase.
I'm all for "getting more done", but I don't think that captures the full value of making things "intentionally automatic." While routine can help make the mundane efficient, it also gives us the ability to make positive social connections.
What I mean is this: we live in a world that seems to grow more coarse by the day. Living and working in the greater New York area, I'm exposed to this more than might be the case in other markets, but it's a tough world out there.
Changing that is not up to any one person, but it can start with anyone. Imagine an environment in which we "intentionally made automatic" the five whys, "a question-asking technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem". Rather than debate observations, we'd start conversations that stood a better shot at getting at root causes.
Similarly, imagine a world in which we truly started by "seeking first to understand", before trying to be understood. As author Stephen Covey explained:
"If you're like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you're listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely."
To be fair, I am (as Covey surmised) like most people. I don't do this well, and I certainly don't do it well enough to move the needle. That doesn't mean I can't try.
If I can try, so can you. That's the hope I take away from this opportunity to intentionally make things automatic. Routine tasks may be made more efficient, and personal interactions may be made more meaningful. Imagine that.