James A. Pearson

Good writing is good thinking.

Tangled Systems in a New Year


image from molossus on flickr

My goal for 2012 is simple: do more of the things that I care about most. This, like so many important things, is simple when you say it but extremely difficult when you try to do it.

Primary among the difficulties here is the challenge of answering the question: What do I care about most?

I find that people in general (and I in particular) are not creatures of simple, straightforward desires, goals, and priorities. In fact we are tangles of extremely different, often contradictory and competing systems: part of me wants safety, part wants applause, part wants love, part wants legacy, part wants truth, and part wants a sandwich. And our difficult task is to round all of these systems up and make a decision about what to do for the day, or in this case the year.

When we say “I” or “me” we’re not talking about all those desires fighting for our attention, we’re talking about the “I” or “me” that gives the attention, that makes the decisions. This realization gives me the power to choose among my systems, to decide that I want to value some of them more highly, and that I want to mitigate the effects of others (like the reptilian fear center called the amygdala, that pipes up equally whether I come face to face with a bear or step onto stage to face an audience who, presumably, won’t eat me).

I try to align my goals with what I believe are my better systems — desires for truth and legacy and making a difference. And although much of my daily behavior is also driven by desires for applause and comfort, my goals, if well made, can act as compass points to remind me of my best direction.

This year I encourage you to consider what you truly care about, which of the things you might want to accomplish are fueled by your better systems. Then dream. Set big, scary goals around those things, and take steps towards them every day. Make 2012 your most impactful, fulfilling year yet.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this post! It is so true that our desires, needs, wants for a particular time frame often feel like a massive tangle. For me at the moment, they feel like a really tight knot that I cannot see how to unravel.

    They are sitting there, staring back at me, wondering if I have even the faintest idea of how to begin separating them.

    I sit back and wonder if I even want to separate them. Why can’t this knot of various hopes , dreams, attention demanding tasks, work together? I think it’s like you said, using your goals as guide posts, or checkpoints, while pursuing the decisions that will help define our year of 2012. I am trying to cross reference my intentionality with this knot of choices and make decisions off of those observations.

    Thank you for reminding me to keep pursuing another fulfulling year! The most fulfilling one yet!

    ~Deb

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