Ravi Rajan is a program director working in India. He writes articles on management, creativity, and positive psychology techniques
I Learn a Valuable Life Lesson
It was 31 December 2021 and I again found myself in the same situation that I was in almost every New Year's eve for the past 15 years.
I had a brand-new diary of 2022, a brand-new Parker pen, a brand-new writing place, and the same old New Year resolutions that I had been attempting to achieve for the past 15 years in vain.
• I will run at least 2 miles a day to be fit.
Flop: I never succeeded beyond the 1st week.
• I will avoid confrontation with toxic people.
Flop: My anger always gets the better of me.
• I will find time for my family.
Flop: I need to attend this official meeting, it is important.
And for the 15th time as I was braving, pushing, and motivating myself to achieve my resolutions, a friend of mine sauntered in. Let us call him Mr. Cool.
“So, back to your old nonsense stuff?” You won’t give up this shit, right? “He quipped.
“I will make it work this time,” I said keeping a brave face.
“Won’t work unless you add puttering to each resolution,” he said.
“What the hell is puttering?” I asked, getting exasperated by this conversation.
“Find out”. And so, saying he just sauntered away leaving me intrigued.
What Is Puttering?
However, that set me thinking. Mr. Cool is not what he appears; an unremarkable, easy-going simpleton who lets the world pass by him. Behind his so-called ‘cool’ looks were nerves of steel.
This ‘steel’ made him a serial entrepreneur many times over. It is this steel that made him the most sought-after advisor in the business world. And it is this steel that helped him to convert his most impossible dreams into reality.
No, I just could not take Mr. Cool’s words lightly.
I began to dig around to find more about puttering. The dictionary definition of puttering meant ‘doing inconsequential things in a relaxed manner. ‘Then I found that it is heavily used by every big shot from Bill Gates to Jeff Bezos.
In fact, the Amazon Honcho Jeff Bezos wrote extensively about it in his book, “Invent & Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos,” when he says.
“I get up early. I go to bed early. I like to read the newspaper. I like to have coffee. I like to have breakfast with my kids before they got to school. So, my puttering time is very important to me.”
I was convinced. This might be the magic mantra I was searching for. I will create my own form of puttering and bake it into each of my objectives. There will no frills, no ‘burning willpower’, and no inspirational podcasts to egg me on. It would be plain, simple puttering.
It has been 7 months since then and I have never looked back. In fact, every New Year's resolution of mine is going great guns with my happiness levels are at an all-time high. I am proud to brag that I have never felt more productive in my life ever before.
And here are some of the goals I achieved this year:
- I Run Two Miles a Day
- I Avoid Toxic People
- I Have Time for My Family
I Run Two Miles a Day
No, I did not get any extraordinary dose of superhuman power to achieve my goal. Puttering just gave me focus and focus helped me to achieve my goal.
On the 1st day, I ran 250 meters and gave up. But instead of feeling bad and guilty about my failure, I just puttered into a slow walk. As I walked aimlessly, I thought about all the good things I will get by becoming fit. I thought about the accolades, the admirations and of course, the “feel good” feeling that I would experience inside me by getting fit.
As I puttered on and on, I gradually found myself running back, enjoying my run, and before long, I had completed my quota for the day. My mantra for fitness became simple; run-putter-run----repeat. That is, it!
I Avoid Toxic People
Toxic people found in real life and in the virtual world people scare the hell out of me. The more I try to avoid them, the more I fall into the dangerous trap of blistering anger, low self-esteem, and dwindling confidence in my own abilities to achieve the impossible.
So now, whenever I meet a toxic person who threatens to lead me astray, I just putter away into myself. I push myself into a world of logical thinking where I question myself.
• Would getting angry help? No.
• Can I avoid this person? Yes
• Is this person my well-wisher? No.
Once I have the answers, I just move away. No etiquettes, no thank you, and no “excuse me”, just move away from that person either physically or virtually.
In the last 7 months I followed this approach, all “toxins” have gone from my life.
I Have Time for My Family
This was tough to achieve and it involved setting up a boundary between office and home. And puttering helped me to do just that.
To tell the truth, it is not that I cannot find time for my family or my kids. If I had wanted to, I could have done it long ago but the thing that stopped me was “FOMO”, the fell of missing out.
Yes,I believed in the 'indispensable' value of myself .
"I am the star performer in my work and I need to know what is happening. I need to be there at every meeting. I need to dole out my “valuable” advice in every decision.I am indispensable. My team and my colleagues cannot survive without me."
It was this very 'indispensability' that made me compromise my family time, all just to satisfy the insatiable demands of my inflated ego.
Now, whenever, that extra meeting comes along that I 'need' to attend, I just putter away into idleness and ask myself three simple questions.
• Can the meeting go on without me? Yes.
• Is the meeting compromising the boundaries I have set? Yes.
• Is it a justifiable reason to make kids unhappy? No
The key here is setting up the boundary for personal space and zealously guarding it.And setting boundaries does not make you less ambitious or shoddy at work. You can still achieve your dreams by setting boundaries and aiming up the ultimate productivity within the allocated time.
As Asa Don Brown has rightly said.
“Boundaries are, in simple terms, the recognition of personal space”
- The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos
- THE POWER OF PUTTERING
- Puttering around: Why small tasks feel so therapeutic
- Puttering as Good for You as Jogging
- 12 Best Putting Tips To Become An Awesome Putter
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Ravi Rajan