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Learn to tell yourself No!

At the beginning of our career, the scope of our objectives and ambition means that we concentrate mostly on diversifying our activities and commitments. Diversification is generally the watchword and can also become a philosophy guiding our professional career, which is not counterproductive in itself. But, in wanting to do everything, do we not end up doing nothing or doing badly?

We often believe that we should never put all our eggs in the same basket. The problem is often that we look for more baskets or better baskets instead of taking care of our eggs, and end up damaging our eggs instead of transporting or storing them properly. The pitfall of diversification is succumbing to opportunity or greed instead of focusing exclusively on our tasks and their absolute, intrinsic value.

We often let our attention wander despite our limited time, concentration, energy, and motivation, and as we progress in our careers, we realize that we can not do everything. Sooner or later, scattered attention creates a definite unease: Thoughts become dispersed over several priorities or multiple projects leading to only a few being brought to conclusion or wanting to attend every meeting and to participate in every decision-making process; these are some of the behaviours and feelings symptoms of a spiral of destructive scattering.

Understanding whether our attention is focused on our long-term goals should be an ongoing, everyday effort, even and especially in the face of a constant deluge of information, recommendations and choices that we offer ourselves or that are offered to us all day long. This observation is not specific to our times, but distraction today is more intense than before when you consider the digitization of our professional interactions and our personal life.

To avoid scattering our efforts, we should know how to finish what we started, we must have the patience to learn from our mistakes and continue our progress, and we must above all know not to be distracted by a multitude of choices and concentrate on execution. Of course, challenging ourselves at regular intervals, requesting feedback, and involving others are keys to adaptation. Nonetheless, we also have to give ourselves the time to execute cleanly and fully, and concentrate on achieving ‘sprints’ which tolerate no disturbance or distractions.

It is quite important to recognize that the more our strike force and efforts are spread out, the less powerful it becomes. Moreover, focusing this strike force towards a selected number of precise objectives provides an incredibly mobilizing advantage of intensity. The key to success becomes our ability to manage the choices to which we constantly have access.

We have to remember that more choice leads to wrong choices and reduce our perception of happiness. Groundbreaking research has been done by Barry Schwartz to argue and prove this in his book ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less or -Why the Culture of Abundance Robs Us of Satisfaction’, HarperCollins. Above all, we must say no, even and especially to ourselves, when we have too many choices. In fact, refusing a choice or an option may seem disruptive but it is scientifically valid. Freedom lies not in the multiplicity of choices but in their quality. It is essential to focus on achieving a limited number of alternatives as the key to successful change and transformations.

By Farid Yandouz


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