“Until desire becomes obsession, you will never accomplish big things.”
I don’t remember where I first came across this saying (it was probably Pinterest), but I’ve had it written down and pinned to the bulletin board over my desk for a few years now, and it continues to resonate.
I’ve desired a lot of things over the years: to lose weight, to be more athletic, to bring in more money, to date more, to keep my bedroom clean for more than a week at a time. But while I might desire all of these things, I never really get obsessive about them, and so I might make little strides here and there but never anything big.
But there are things that I do get obsessed with, and these are the things that dramatically change my life. For me, it usually starts with a book. For example, a few years ago I read the book Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which is all about how we form and maintain habits (or don’t). Rubin developed a personality-sorting framework that she calls the Four Tendencies that helps identify how a person typically responds to either external or internal expectations (she even has a quiz to help you figure out where you fall). It’s not a hyperbole to say that this book changed my life; once I was able to identify my Tendency (I’m a Rebel) I was able to completely alter how I approach my career, my life, even my relationships, so that things really did start to work so much better (than before haha). I used strategies in Rubin’s book to get my own first book written and published, to change my eating habits, to better manage my time and energy. Knowing the differences in Tendencies has allowed me to communicate better with family and friends, rather than being endlessly frustrated by the different ways that we approach things. In short, I became obsessed with these ideas (I try to figure out the Tendency of everyone I meet now) and because I became I obsessed I was able to make some really big changes in my life.
For the last year or so, I’ve been getting more and more obsessed about living with intentionality and personal ownership (of my life, not of stuff). I don’t want to live my life based just on the expectations of others or as if I have no choice about anything. Literally everything that we do is a choice. Even if something happens to you that is beyond your control, you still get to choose how to respond to it. None of us are victims of the universe. In my obsession with taking control of my own life, I’ve naturally been reading more about the specific areas that are important to me. I want to take better care of my body, and so I’ve been reading about health and nutrition, as well as about our relationships to food. I want to be a better daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, and so I’ve been trying to pay more attention to these relationships and make myself accountable to how I actually behave in them. I want to be a better writer, and so I’ve actually started acting on all of the advice I’ve read in the 15+ years that I’ve been studying writing. I may have desired all of these things before now, but it’s only recently that I’ve become obsessed about them and hence have started to make progress on any of them.
In his book Running Down a Dream, Tim Grahl talks about the epiphany he had when he realized that nearly everything in his life was a choice. He says, “If I’m ruthlessly honest, there is nothing in my life that I don’t have complete control over. Things like my race and some health problems are set. Otherwise, everything is a choice. I can choose what I eat. I can choose where I live. I can choose what I spend my time on.” Grahl is making the point that the idea of being “too busy” is a big fat lie, because we always have control over how we choose to manage our time. He says that he changed his thinking from “I’m too busy to…” into “I’ve chosen not to prioritize…” and that little change completely altered how he viewed his work and the rest of his life. It did the same for me. (Grahl’s book Your First 1000 Copies is how I became obsessed with self-publishing).
We are naturally going to prioritize the things that we are obsessed with. So what are you obsessed with? Your job? Your smartphone? Your family?
Have you ever noticed how an obsession has enabled you to accomplish big things? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below. (I’d also love to hear what your Tendency is from Gretchen Rubin’s quiz)
(And yes, I’m also obsessed with dinosaurs these days)
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