You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything…

Forgive me readers, for it has been more than two months since my last post.

While I could offer you a number of extremely good reasons why I haven’t written a new post since June 7th, I’ll spare you the excuses.

Strangely enough, it was precisely when I was thinking of the various reasons/excuses for why I hadn’t kept my blog current that I got the idea and motivation needed for this post (remembering a post over at Get Rich Slowly also helped). 

So, remember when I mentioned that I wasn’t going to offer reasons or excuses for why I haven’t posted in over two months (should be easy enough to remember, it was only two sentences back)?  How quickly I will have broken that promise…

The (Limited) Power of Willpower and Trying to Do Everything

I had (and still have) high hopes for 2011.  I knew it was going to be an exciting/busy year and I wanted to make the most of it by planning to accomplish several important goals, both personal and professional (e.g., passing Part II of the CMA Exam, running a half marathon, keeping my blog current, getting more involved in my community, etc.).  Thus far in 2011, life and work, as they always seem to do, have had their own agendas and priorities for me.

That said, I haven’t made as much progress on my goals as I had initially hoped.  And for a while, until recently, I was pretty upset about it.  Fortunately, I came across a post by Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You to be Rich where he discusses the fallacy that we can do everything ‘if only we try harder.’

The truth, it turns out, is that willpower is limited.  We’re cognitive misers, that is, ‘we only have enough cognition to do a few things [at a time and] if we try to work on [too many things at once], we’re not going to do any of them.’  Yep, sounds about right.

If you had asked for my opinion on this a few weeks back, I would likely have fallen squarely in the ‘just try harder’ camp, suggesting that it is all a matter of choice and that if something is really important, you’ll get it done.  I feel better knowing that, deep down, we’re all wired to be cognitive misers (read: lazy), ‘aiming to expend the minimum amount of cognitive resources (willpower) required.’ 

Armed with this new mindset, I’ve reset my expectations for 2011 and have decided to listen to my own advice from February, where I reflected on the importance of ‘single-tasking’ when it comes to pursuing goals/change in life.

Now that I’ve fully recognized that I can do anything I want, if only I stop trying to do everything I want, I’m looking forward to a much more productive close to 2011.    

Your thoughts? 

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