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Trying to Pursue Many Different Directions at Once? Guest Post by Derek Sivers

by Jim Taggart June 9, 2011

I’m very pleased to welcome back blogger and provocative thinker Derek Sivers to share his newest post. I was struck by the many inherent messages contained with Derek’s commentary. Whether it has to do with personal balance, goal-setting, wellness or organizational leadership, Derek’s post comes at a time when society is facing growing challenges and pressures.

Please take a moment to share a comment or experience.

Trying to pursue many different directions at once, but not making progress?
Frustrated that the world wants you to pick one thing, because you want to do them all?

The problem is you’re thinking short-term.Acting as if you don’t do them all this week, they won’t happen.

The solution is to think long-term.Do just one for a few years, then another for a few years, then another.

You may have heard this story:

Buridan’s donkey is standing halfway between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. It keeps looking left and right, trying to decide between hay and water. Unable to decide, it eventually falls over and dies of hunger and thirst.

A donkey can’t think of the future.If he could, he’d clearly realize he could first drink the water, then go eat the hay.

Don’t be a donkey.

You can do everything you want to do.

You just need foresight and patience.

If you’re 25 now, and have 7 different directions you want to pursue, then you can do each one for 10 years, and have done all of them by the time you’re 95. (Safe to assume that by the year 2081 it won’t be unusual to live to 95.)

It seems ridiculous to plan to age 95 when you’re 25, right? But it’s a fact that it’s (most likely) coming, so you might as well take advantage of it.

Then you can fully focus on one direction at a time, without feeling conflicted or distracted, because you know you’ll get to the others.

We’ve all done this on a small-scale.When something is urgent and needs to be done that day, you really focus. You get distracting thoughts for a minute. (“Wow, it would be nice to go watch a movie now.”)But you put it out of your mind because you know if you just focus on this one thing now, you can get it done, and do the other stuff afterwards.

So, expand that into months or years.

Focus on one at a time, knowing you can do the other stuff afterwards.
Most people over-estimate what they can do in one year, and under-estimate what they can do in 10 years.

Think long-term.

Use the future.

Don’t be short-sighted.

Don’t be a donkey.

(If you’re interested in this, please read Future-focused or present-focused?)