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Plug the Leak AND Row the Boat

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Today we’re talking about pondering 3 simple but potentially powerful questions.  I just went through these questions with a client a couple days ago, and they helped him get unstuck, find clarity, and see a path forward.

There’s nothing profound about these questions.  But sometimes we need to go through a review process, especially when we feel stuck.

It’s good to ask yourself these questions every 3 months.

Question 1:

What needs to be shed from my current picture?

Sometimes there’s things, people, or practices that we need to put “outside the fence”--those who work with me get to hear a lot about my yard and fence metaphor 🙂

Ironically, as I’m typing this, I have the National Geographic channel on, and there’s a show about a team’s dangerous expedition to get to the peak of some mountain, somewhere (hey, I’m typing this so I’m only half paying attention to TV).

They first had to travel many miles through a jungle to even get to the base of the mountain. Long story short, they had way too much stuff. The only way they could make it through the jungle was to get rid of half their stuff.  No extra clothes, no extra nothing.

That’s the way it is for every one of us, too.  Sometimes we need to let things go in order to move forward.  So then, what needs to go from your life?

Question 2:

What needs to stay in the picture, as is?

When you take a look at your life, or if you’re evaluating only a part of your life, most of the time (hopefully!) we can keep things as they are.  And when we ARE in a phase of reconsidering, reevaluating, and reordering, it’s important to recognize what IS working well.

Keep those things!  This exercise is an opportunity to be grateful for them, and to clarify what IS working.

Question 3:

What new things need to come into the picture?

Self-explanatory, right?  It’s not just about getting rid of “stuff”, it’s about making additions as well.

Some people only get rid of things to improve their lives, but are really slow to ADD life-affirming, enriching, and energizing things to their lives.

One way of thinking about this--it’s not only about getting rid of what drains us.  That just leaves a vacuum, and brings us from the “negative” up to “neutral”, e.g., from a -6 up to a 0 (remember grade school arithmetic?).

Being at 0 is better than being at -6, but we need to go a step further and also add things to our lives that bring us into the “positive numbers”, e.g., up to a +3.  These are the things that energize us.

Silly example--suppose we’re out in the middle of a lake in a rowboat. We’re trying to get to the other side, when suddenly our rowboat springs a leak.

Well, if we want to recover from our situation and get to the other side, it’s not enough only to plug the leak.

We also have to get back to rowing the boat!

Some people are really good at plugging their leaks, which is good!  This prevents them from sinking! However, they’re not really good at rowing and moving forward.

BOTH are important.

Plug AND row.

One last thing--all of these 3 questions have the word “need” in them.  We’re talking about needs, not wants.  There’s a difference, sometimes a big difference.

You can answer these 3 questions for your “wants” if you want--that’s up to you.  But I definitely recommend you start with your needs.

-Sean Cox, Chicago


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I’m Sean Cox,

I write these articles to provoke you to look at your life–to consider where you currently are and where you could be in the future. I want you to break free from the status quo, pursue your potential, and become a razor-sharp asset.