Life in the Overlap

I have written before about the importance of knowing what’s truly important. The most successful people know that they control very few things that really matter. Most people spend entirely too much time on seemingly urgent “stuff” at the expense of investing their time on things truly important. 

The other major waste of time we experience is worrying about things that matter but that we have little or no control over. While we are worrying about things we cannot control we are not focused on the things that matter that we can control.

I could write thousands of words on this subject but this week a colleague of mine named Billy sent me the drawing that accompanies this post. It “shows” what I mean better than I could ever say it. (I guess that’s where the whole “a picture is worth a thousand words saying comes from)

A life well-lived is a life lived in the “overlap.” The overlap is where the things that matter coincide with the things that we can control. While I’m certain my colleague drew this picture rather quickly I’d still bet it’s almost perfectly to scale. There really isn’t much overlap to live in. 

Maybe that’s why we find it so hard to do. 

Living in the overlap requires discipline, awareness, and as the picture shows, FOCUS. As for me, I’m pretty good at not worrying about things that don’t matter and that I have no control over. But I’m constantly straying into the things that matter territory that I can’t control. That happens at the expense of my controllable things that matter.

It’s a very human thing to do. It’s also a very unproductive thing to do. 

I’ve thought about this drawing a lot this week and it’s amazing how the overlap aligns with my core values. I have a very few core values and I’ve been reminded this week that leaving the overlap also means I’m likely living outside my core values. My deeply held core values. 

If I stay in the overlap my core values will always be nearby.

I have it easy compared to many people; my core values have been developed through years of introspection. I know what matters to me. Most people have yet to fully understand their core values and I’m guessing that makes living in the overlap that much harder. 

Pay no attention to those things that don’t matter and less attention to things that do matter but that you can’t control. Care about those controllable things that matter and if you can, help the people who do have some control there. But YOUR focus must be on the overlap! 

I highly, highly, highly recommend that you begin to look at what is in your own overlap. What truly matters to you? What can you truly control? What are you willing to let go of so you can hold something even more important to you closer than ever before? You will likely be very surprised at just how small your overlap really is. You will also be shocked at how much time you spend on things outside of your overlap. 

If you’re completely honest with yourself you’ll discover that you control far less than you thought you did. That is not a sign of weakness, that is a sign that you are human.

My overlap is very, very small and yours probably is as well. But the days I stay within my overlap are special days. I accomplish more and what I accomplish actually can make a difference. 

I am not unique in this, days in your overlap will be special days for you too. You must know where your overlap is in order to live there. Find it, focus on it, live there and grow there. 

Most of all, enjoy the very special days you create there!

 

8 thoughts on “Life in the Overlap

  1. Steve Borek says:

    Never heard it said this way. (BTW, did you draw this on a napkin at lunch. Impressive.)

    I took me a long time to discover where my focus should be.

    I went through a period in my coaching business trying to be all things to all people. Doesn’t work that well. In fact, it’s physically and mentally draining.

    On the personal side, one day I discovered it’s best just to be me. Focus on the relationships that are vitally important to my growth as a person.

    • Well, I didn’t actually draw it, my colleague did… and it was on a notepad.

      When we know what we can and cannot control we know enough to have a chance at success. Expending energy on things we can’t control, even if those things do matter, is a cause of a great many failures.

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