Ready or not, here we are: Welcome to 2024!
We stand at the dawn of a new year, full of promise and opportunity. But before launching into the next 52 weeks, I’d like to urge you to take a moment and slow down. Catch your breath…
Just before Christmas, Jim White, my counterpart at the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, asked me how the year was ending.
“The year is ending with a bang,” I responded. “But I’m ending it with a whimper,” alluding to that T.S. Elliott poem, “The Hollow Men,” and we both got a chuckle. He understood. But I’m not sure it was all that amusing.
In fact, 2023 was a busy year, one filled with opportunities and challenges, both professional and personal. As the world continues to accelerate, there’s nothing to suggest that 2024 will be any different, and it’s accompanied by the urge – for many of us the compulsion – to do more, ever more. But is that a good strategy?
Don’t Run at ‘Red Line’ Constantly
In a blog post last month titled “The problems with flat out,” business author Seth Godin acknowledged “there is a lot of pressure to give our all.”
But “giving our all” is not meant to be a constant state, because running any system at top speed for prolonged periods will cause it to burn out. It also causes your field of view to narrow – you’ve got to concentrate on keeping the system running and in the right direction.
“This attention distracts us from all the alternatives, strategies and shortcuts that present themselves along the way,” he wrote. “When we’re at maximum all the time, there’s no acceleration or deceleration, both of which create opportunities for change and growth.”
That’s all very nice, I can hear you thinking to yourself. But, David, you don’t know just how many things I have to do!
“The problem – the source of all the anxiety – is the need that we feel, from our vantage point here in the present moment, to be able to know that these efforts will prove successful,” Oliver Burkman explains in his 2021 book, “Four Thousand Weeks.”
“The struggle for certainty,” he continues “is an intrinsically hopeless one – which means you have permission to stop engaging in it.”
“The universal truth,” he writes, “is that most of us invest a lot of energy, one way or another, in trying to avoid fully experiencing the reality in which we find ourselves.
But face it we must, because “there is no other time management technique that’s half as effective as just facing the way things truly are.”
How do you do that?
I walked downstairs a few weeks ago to find my eldest daughter, home to attend her sister’s graduation, sitting on the couch, notebook and pen in hand. She was journaling, capturing her thoughts and memories of 2023 on the page. She has always been a planner, a thinker, spending time reflecting on her life, where she’s been and where she’s going. She was looking backward to look ahead to 2024.
I was both impressed and chagrined because this is not a practice I’ve adopted.
Conducting an annual review each year is one way to get some perspective on how we’re spending our time. Are we spending our most precious resource – those minutes, days, weeks ticking by – on what is most meaningful to us?
The clock stops for no one. There’s precious little relief from the pressure to perform. But that’s true for everyone, so make sure you’re focused on what is most important.
You can’t do that when your hair is on fire.
“The hypervigilance required to go at full speed,” Godin wrote, “gives us no room to breathe or even improve. And if we’re at a full sprint, we’ve robbed ourselves of the flexibility to turn it up, right at the moment when it’s most needed.”
Ready or not, here we are. But before you go, take a deep breath, and spend some time thinking – not doing. Thinking about how to live this coming year with intention? I will be doing the same.
Best wishes to you in 2024.