Difficulty is Not Optional - Next Action Associates

Near the end of a seminar someone will often say some version of the following: “I like the sound of what you are proposing, but I think it will be difficult”, in a tone that makes it clear that they feel it shouldn’t be.

Here is my take: given the benefits GTD® offers to those who practice consistently, I don’t think querying the difficulty of it is the right question.

“Is it really possible to get the benefits you suggest?”, strikes me as a much more useful question at that point in the proceedings.

If it is not possible to get the benefits we promise, then we should all down tools now. Best not waste any more time. However, if it is possible to have them, then we’d best just get stuck straight in, as the rewards are substantial enough to make ‘difficult’ look like a detail in a much bigger picture.

A large part of the challenge of learning anything is simply believing that the benefits on the other side of learning it are worth the effort to get there. If we don’t believe that we can get there, then we would, of course, be mad to try. If the benefits are only available to others – smarter, more motivated, more ‘disciplined’ than we know ourselves to be – then we are better off conserving our energy.

There is another way of thinking about difficulty. After 14 years of practising and 10 years of teaching the approach, I’m not convinced that GTD will make anyone’s life less difficult. Difficult seems to be a feature of being human, and I’ve not yet met anyone – no matter how wealthy, famous, humble, centred or beautiful – for whom there are no rainy days. Rainy years even.

Life seems to throw a lot of curveballs, and the difficulty dealing with them seems to be astonishingly well matched to our ability to handle them. We don’t get the curveballs that stretched us in our twenties anymore – that would be too easy. No, in our forties and fifties, we get forty-something and fifty-something curveballs, always pitched seemingly just outside of our zone of competence. It seems that that is how we grow.

So when someone says, “I like this, but it feels like it will be difficult”, I get it. My response these days is this: “Yes, but it is difficult already. We aren’t promising to make it less difficult. What we are promising is better results for the difficulty you experience in being human anyway.”

Esoteric? Perhaps. Heretical? Almost certainly, but that is my experience.

There is no domain of human performance where world-class performers are complaining about difficulty. They know that it’s part of the package. On the contrary, when they see difficulty, they get stuck straight in – it is an opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competition.

Don’t get me wrong, GTD definitely makes my life easier in some ‘cost/benefit ratio’ sort of way, where for an equivalent amount of aggro I definitely get better results than I was getting without using the approach.

The aggro seems not to be negotiable, but the results seem to be somewhat under my control.

And the benefits of using it as an approach to managing life in a maelstrom are such that grumbling about difficulty would feel just a tad ungrateful.

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