Friday, November 09, 2012

Outputs and Outcomes

I have been oscillating between two extremes this week:  on one hand a complete feeling of powerlessness and on the other hand a feeling of control.

The feeling of powerlessness engulfed me on Wednesday when, faced with an ever rising sea of tasks and expectations, my will broke.  There is nothing so demoralizing as the sense that no matter how much one does and where one focuses, the end result will essentially be nil.  Whatever improvements made are transient, what tasks accomplished are buried under a wave of new items to be addressed tomorrow.

The feeling of control has periodically engulfed me throughout the week.  It seems to have appeared as a result of participating in Nanowrimo.  The thing that seemed so difficult last year - writing 1667 words a day - has not only become an activity that I have found I can do but that I can enjoy - and make progress in (17,213 words on day 9).

The fact that these two stand in contrast is somewhat remarkable to me.  The sorts of activities I stake my life and livelihood on are beyond my control.  The thing which is at this point no more than a personal hobby is well within my control.  Here's the question that I need to consider:  how do I expand this control to the other parts of my life?

We work (and live) best when we have a sense that what we are doing has an impact, both for ourselves and others.  Impact, of course, is a matter of cause and effect, of input and output.  The effects and outputs that are the best are the ones of which we can control the causes and inputs.  There's a spectrum, I imagine, running from things that are 100% under our control to things that are 0% under out control - and certainly those things out of our control will always be a part of our lives.  The question is, can these things be minimized?

I'll make a second argument as well:  those that have greater control over those things are generally those who are able to achieve better results and are quite possible happier.  Why?  Because they are able to take actions which directly result in a better and greater set of outcomes.  They are greater able to direct the course of the actions towards those outcomes that they are attempting to achieve, rather than simply trying to manage inputs not of their choosing in a direction that they cannot control.

It's a convoluted thing.  My actions are the results of inputs on me and I am limited by the inputs to what I can then do for outputs.  Thinking simply, give a chef garbage and no matter how well he tries, he's probably not going to be able to do much with it.

Which is maybe why the sense of control from writing rings so true.  I 100% control the input (my time, my energy) - and thus, I 100% control the outputs.

How do I then gain greater control over the inputs?  Perhaps that's the question that needs to be addressed. I leave today's meditation with this thought:   To the extent that I remained mired in the outcomes of others or being dependent on them, that is the extent to which I can improve the outcomes. 

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