Responsiveness is good. In moderation.

Have you noticed how responsive your life has become? You respond to email, voice mail, text messages, customer requests, business demands, sudden changes in circumstances, family needs, opinions, and news bulletins of all sorts.

Responsiveness is good. In moderation.

What is not good are the unintended consequences that develop when responsiveness overtakes purpose. When the daily barrage of stuff that commands your attention crowds out time for reflection and planning, you will soon find yourself lost at sea. Perhaps more discouraging is the fact that when your mind is in a constant state of alertness, poised to respond to the next unpredictable stimulus, it becomes foggy and fatigued. Your thinking is less sharp, your decision making less focused. Your confidence takes a hit.

I am seeing this fatigue in many places—business, education, even philanthropy. Credit some of it to the relentless pace of information and escalating need. Combine it with the frothy admonitions of motivational types encouraging you to embrace life with gusto and go for the gold (especially at today’s rates). Without a filter, you are helpless.

Your computer’s spam filter operates on your behalf without your having to think about it. That’s good. But you need another, more powerful, filter to help you organize the information, requests, and commands coming at you in order to respond with confidence and a sense of equilibrium.

This filter is called priorities. It is constructed of goals and powered by purpose. Goals and purpose require reflection and planning. You see the problem.

Another aspect of responsiveness that may keep you stuck is the goodness you feel when you are able to satisfy a request or solve a problem. Even if the presenting request or problem has nothing to do with your goals or purpose, helping others feels good. Until one day you realize that over weeks, months, and maybe years, you have not accomplished what you meant to, and all your good-hearted activity has kept you locked in place.

This is not an either/or equation. You do not have to choose your work over helping others. It is a yes/and. But it starts with some sort of plan for your life. When you know what you want to accomplish, you can organize your time to make sure you progress toward your goals. Requests that do not align in some way can be deflected, referred elsewhere, or ignored. As a dear psychologist friend told me years ago, “Just because you can help doesn’t mean you should.” Wise words for many reasons, not the least of which is reclaiming your time and energy in order to respond to your dreams.

Categories: Inspiration

About Susan Marshall

founder susan marshall

Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and founder, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future, one person or team at a time.  Through personal experience and hands-on work with executives from diverse industries at all levels, Susan has had the privilege of helping thousands of people do the difficult and exhilarating work of growth.