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Bring Your Vision to Life

August 26, 2015

Hello, Trailblazer!

I’ve been a little bit crazy lately. Just a tiny little bit. But enough that my wife has noticed and put her foot down.

To lay out the background I have to talk about the weather again. It really matters so stay with me.

Again with the weather?
Last month we had ended our period of historical rainfall and were entering a “typical” north Texas summer. Now we’re smack dab in the middle of summer weather. That means we have had many days in a row of a high temperature at or above 100. The overnight low drops to the upper 70s, sometimes low 80s. It’s really hot and it’s muggy.

Why does the weather matter? Because in the middle of a typical hot, muggy Texas summer, I accepted an invitation to join a walking challenge through Fitbit. Fitbit is an activity monitor that keeps track of steps taken, like a digital pedometer, among other features.

While some of the walkers were posting about needing to wear a jacket while walking, and one claimed the temperature had gotten to an “uncomfortable” 75 degrees, I was walking in blazing sun in the high 90s, from the shade of a tree to the shade of a building, wishing the 20 feet in between wasn’t so far and feeling every step of it.

If a little does a little bit of good…
First day I got over 24,000 steps and was in the lead by a little. It was hard enough finding the time for the steps, much less enduring the heat. But I got a lot of them after the sun started setting and then many more after it had gone down. Still hot and muggy, but no sun blazing down on me.

The second day my friend and colleague who invited me went into beast mode. She got over 30,000 steps that day. Getting near the end of the day, I had been comfortably in first place. But she was two hours behind me in pleasant California, still out walking when I was ready to settle in for the night. At midnight my time I was 1,500 steps behind her. By the time she stopped, it was around 11 pm her time or 1 am my time! She had added another 3,500 steps – after midnight my time!

When dedication becomes compulsion
I won’t ask you to do the math. I’ll just tell you that when you add the steps she was ahead of me at midnight my time to the steps she took after midnight my time, I needed over 5,000 steps between midnight and 2 am to win. So I was out walking, with just a few breaks, from midnight until 2 am. I passed her around 1:15 am but I wasn’t sure she was really done, since it was only 11:15 pm her time, so I kept walking.

In the middle of the weekend contest, I accepted an invitation to a weekday contest for the current week. That’s when my wife told me “No more!” She encourages me to walk every day and is thrilled when I’m getting steps, but she saw how this was consuming.

She’s a little concerned that it’s not healthy long-term to make getting so many steps my main priority. She thinks aiming for 10,000 steps a day is an achievable goal, but competing with a 30,000-step beast mode walker is not sustainable!

Juggling priorities short-term
I have to agree with her. Especially since it’s still so hot. On Monday I went to the mall and got over 6,000 of my steps walking in air conditioning. But that’s a long way to go and not always practical. Plus since Saturday morning I’ve put off things I need to do if they require me to sit down for too long – such as responding to lower priority email messages and writing this newsletter article (ahem).

I completely surprised myself with how many steps I got and with how many steps I could get when I was tired and sore but really, really wanted to win. Part of me realized this would never work long-term because of the things I wasn’t getting done. But another part realized it’s easier to commit to 10,000 steps per day when I have been able to get 24,000 or more 3 days in a row.

But not losing site of the long-term
To get 24,000 steps per day on a regular basis would require big changes to my daily and weekly routine. I would have to give up many things, several of which are meaningful or necessary or both. I’m not willing to do that. It would be a tiny bit crazy.

But I was willing to do it for a weekend. And I’m willing to get far more than my usual number of steps this whole week.

That’s because I temporarily shifted my priorities to make this possible, incurring some short-term ‘expenses’ in terms of things left undone. But I can’t keep it as a long-term priority because of the cost of not doing those important things on a regular basis.

The Fungibility of Priorities

Priorities are fungible. Fungible is a term from economics that describes the value of a commodity. It means one is interchangeable with another. Barrels of oil are fungible. It doesn’t matter who is producing it or buying it. As long as it has the same quality grade (light sweet crude, for example), the sale will have the same impact on the overall market and on price.

Bushels of corn are fungible. If you’re a farmer and someone several states away has an unexpected buyer who purchases a lot of their corn, the price you can sell at will go up.

Money is fungible, as long as you’re not talking about collectible coins. The twenty dollars you find in your pants after you wash them is of the same value as the twenty dollars you win in the office pool. It spends the same. But you can only spend it once.

From the same limited pool
And there’s the challenge of anything that’s fungible. When you use it, it’s basically drained from a supply pool. If you follow a careful budget, you know that when an unexpected expense shows up, paying for it affects your supply pool. You either cut back on other amounts in your budget, pull from savings, or add to your debt.

Adding to your debt is the same as taking money out of your pocket in the long run, by the way. We trick ourselves into thinking “I’ll pay for it later,” but the money in savings minus the money you owe is the amount of money you really have.

Budgeting time, energy, money, focus, and so on
In a similar way, priorities are fungible. You can elevate a goal to a higher level of priority, but when you do so you have to take the level of priority away from something else. Your resources are limited. Your time is limited. Your capacity to focus is limited. Your capacity to engage is limited. Even at your most uplifted, energized, and involved, your capacity to “do” is limited. You have to make choices.

Doctoral students working on their dissertations learn this. To complete the big research project, they have to make it a priority and give less time and energy to other areas of life. Fortunately it’s only for a while, until the dissertation is done. If they had to give up the other priorities forever, very few people would get doctorates.

Small business owners learn this, too. To create the business or to grow it to a sustainable level, they have to give it a lot of priority and shift time and energy away from other areas. They don’t have to focus solely on the business and sacrifice everything, but they do have to choose activities to give up so they have time for the business.

Balancing priorities over time
This may mean going to a son or daughter’s game and then going back to work at the business, trying to balance the two. It may mean a staycation instead of a vacation. It may mean waiting a couple of years to replace the aging, high-mileage car.

Often in order to say “yes” to something you have to know what you are going to say “no” to. Priority refers to the ability to invest time, money, and energy. The amount we have of each is limited. We may be able to increase our energy or generate more money, but the amount is still finite. We have to choose.

Application: Choose an important goal you’re struggling with and write it down. Then on a scale of 1-10 rate how important it is to you in different areas, such as personally, financially, spiritually, for your career, and for your family. Add or subtract categories to suit your situation. Then list the other goals it conflicts with in each area and rate their importance.

Question: What are you willing to say “No” to so that you can say “Yes” to that goal that keeps calling to you?

My apologies if this rambles a bit, is a little unclear, or has errors in grammar and punctuation. Good editing takes time, and I have some walking to do!

May you be agile – and get a healthy number of steps! – on your trail.

Take Care,

Stephen Coxsey, MA, PCC
Professional Certified Coach (ICF)
Leadership and Empowerment

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About Steve Coxsey

Steve collaborates with his clients to design and implement a customized plan for success, well-being, and fulfillment for themselves and the people they lead. They thrive on a personally meaningful path and instill a culture of thriving wherever they lead.

Steve is a supportive ally to his clients. They are typically people in charge who have to juggle competing responsibilities in a variety of roles. They have a compelling vision of what they would like to create or accomplish and are committed to turning it into reality. To make that happen, they develop the agilities of leadership to be able to empower and direct themselves, craft meaningful work, and inspire others.

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