What I’m about to share with you is the result of many, many years of life bashing me over the head trying to get me to understand this simple principle.
I am not someone who enjoys saying “No”.
I don’t like thinking (or thinking that someone else is thinking) that I’m not capable of doing something.
I say yes to everything, because I see every request as a challenge, and I don’t back down from challenges.
The unfortunate side effect of this is that I get spread very thin very quickly. And my lizard brain gets so focused on accepting every challenge that it forgets sometimes about some of the simpler challenges that it’s already accepted.
I don’t know if you can relate to this at all, but it’s genuinely frustrating for just about everyone involved.
Scratch that, it’s frustrating for everyone involved.
Not too long ago, in an extraordinarily uncommon flash of lucidity, I realized that a HUGE part of my problem is that I was treating my “work” life differently from my “home” and “personal” lives.
I realized that while I put a lot of effort into building out systems to keep track of everything I was supposed to do for my clients, I wasn’t doing the same for simple tasks or projects that myself and Sue were undertaking.
I also wasn’t really setting goals for my personal life in the same way that I was for my clients or even my own business.
And because I had these different “systems”, I was effectually multitasking between task systems (how’s that for meta?).
All of that would have meant basically nothing, except I remembered an article I’d read back in 2006 published by the American Psychological Association about how multitasking is just switching back and forth between things, and it has an immense psychological cost.
It hit me like a train.
Switching back and forth between “task management” systems for the different parts of my life actually had a cost!
I wasn’t able to perform at optimum in any of those areas of my life because I was wasting too much energy switching back and forth between how I managed that part of my life!
So I did what any sane, reasonable person would do in that situation: I dumped all of my ideas out on the table to try and sort them out.
I realized something right off the bat.
There were too many things.
If I was going to get anything done, I needed to trim the fat on these projects and ideas.
And there was a lot of fat.
The first thing I had to do was let go of many of the little “hobby” ideas that I’d kept on the back burner because “you never know”.
I just looked through all of those ideas and plans and put them in order from “I don’t want to die having never accomplished this” to “Meh”.
Things like going back to law school, starting a band, writing a novel, starting a virtual staffing agency, teaching music, and teaching Russian didn’t make the cut, because I had other things that I wanted to spend my time on more.
I realized that the things that I was most passionate about, that I really didn’t want to give up, were these (in this order):
Sue (and the bear, of course)
Marketing (only because it’s my only viable source of income)
The really cool thing at this point was that the things that I was really passionate about all in different “categories” (except music and Muay Thai, which were both hobbies).
As I was considering this list, it occurred to me that a person might really only be able to maintain 1 major “project” in each area of life. I looked at this list and it was clear - even if I let these 4 occupy 100% of my waking time, I still probably wouldn’t be able to do any of them justice.
So that made closing the door on my other ideas really easy.
Ok so what’s all this have to do with wives and mistrisses?
Let me explain:
I really like metaphors, and as I was thinking about this cute little list of things that I had chosen to do, I came up with this one:
A man, at any point in his life, can have one wife, one mistress, and one vice.
And I’m not talking about marriage or infidelity, this is a metaphor.
A man is loyal to his wife, he comes home to his wife, eats dinner with his wife, and works day in and day out to support his wife. His wife represents everything that is steadfast in his life. She is there for him when he needs her, and most importantly, he is committed to her enough to work on their relationship. If things aren’t great, they go to counseling. If there are problems, he talks them out with her. He wants it to work, and everything he does (well, almost everything), is to ensure that the marriage succeeds.
However, the man sometimes gets restless and turns to his mistress. He doesn’t love her, but she provides a much needed (and short lived) release from the steadiness of the wife. He is not committed to his mistress. If there are issues with the mistress, he can leave and find another. The mistress is fully aware of this, and is not looking for anything more. It’s not to say that he can’t fall in love with his mistress, but then she becomes his wife and some other “strumpet” takes her place as the mistress.
In other cases, the man needs a break from women altogether. He needs something that doesn’t require any other person, and that he doesn’t have to share. His vices are for him and him alone. He doesn’t abuse them, because he understands that overindulgence will make him soft. He partakes when he needs to, and then returns to his wife.
These three (wife, mistress, vice) occupy all of the man’s time and energy, but the balance of the three keeps him satisfied, refreshed, and motivated to do what he needs to do. He needs all three to maintain that balance.
He works hardest on his relationship with his wife, because it drives his passion.
He toys with his mistress, because that is what “tickles his fancy”.
He indulges in his vice, but sparingly so as to not spoil it.
Now we do the wrap-up
I believe that each of us can realistically handle 3 “projects” at a time. The first (the wife) is the singular project that gives us purpose and provides meaning for life.
The second (the mistress) is whatever pet project we are entertaining at the time, whether it be a new service, a side gig, a hobby, or an actual mistress.
The third (the vice) is the project that we do just for ourselves. It could be blogging, writing poetry, playing poker, building a cigar collection, or becoming a sommelier. Sometimes a hobby can start as a vice, then become a mistress, and eventually you put a ring on it and it becomes your main focus.
So consider this for your life:
What represents “The Wife” for you? “The Mistress”? “The Vice”?
Let me know in the comments below: