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Time To Discard The Portmanteau

Time To Discard The Portmanteau

In the days of grand ocean liners, passengers used portmanteaus — huge, metal-strapped trunks large enough to throw in everything they might need on a three or six week voyage, plus a good few items they couldn’t even imagine a use for. A portmanteau life is just the same: a mass of dissimilar activities, tasks and responsibilities, thrown together without clear focus.

Too many people suffer from trying to handle portmanteau lives. As a result, they’re overworked, stressed out and always on the run from one activity to another. They’re so busy they exist in a nightmare of firefighting and just-in-time decisions. There’s no focus to what they do. It’s as if they can’t bear to prioritize or exclude anything. Their lives include so much, nothing gets enough time or attention.

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Of course, focus isn’t enough by itself. Your life may be tightly focused and have little impact or usefulness. I had a colleague once who was given the job of handling the organization’s relations with the local community. Despite the tight focus, his role had no impact. The business wasn’t interested in the local community’s concerns, and the local people had long ago given up on hopes they could influence the organization’s leaders. Some people focus their lives on areas that are similarly unimportant, even useless, to anyone — including themselves.

At work, “portmanteau” roles have so much overlap with other roles people expend most of their energy in turf wars. Low impact roles are unneeded and hateful. Who wants to do a job they know no one values? If a role comes into both categories, low impact and poor focus, it’s a blind, lame tortoise trying to win a horse race.

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To be worth doing, any action need to be part of a clear focus and have measurable impact on what you value most. Activities with little impact should be eliminated. No one will notice they’ve gone. Poorly focused roles, especially portmanteau roles, should be split or have the useless elements removed. One main area of impact, one role. Two areas, two roles. A properly organized role has a clear purpose and a single focus. Anything else is a distraction and a waste of time. Delegate it. Drop it. Forget it. Tightly focused, portfolio roles with clear impact are the only ones worth doing. They’re also the only jobs able people relish, since they provide the best opportunities for interest and achievement.

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It’s the same with life in general. Taking on too much, and not discriminating between what you can do and what you should, stops you from accomplishing what matters most. It’s so tempting. There’s so much that needs to be done. Living a portmanteau life will leave you frustrated and exhausted. Find your portfolio: the focus and direction that will allow you to concentrate on activities you enjoy and relish.

Try asking yourself these questions:

  • Does this task affect anything directly useful to the most important things in my life?
  • Could sombody else do it?
  • Could they do it better?
  • What would happen if I didn’t pick it up?
  • If I focused more clearly, what could I achieve?
  • Can I have more impact? Where? How?

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on September 15, 2020

7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

Overcoming fear and making life changes is hard. It’s even harder when it’s a big change—breaking up with someone you love, leaving your old job, starting your own business, or hundreds of other difficult choices.

Even if it’s obvious that making a big change will be beneficial, it can be tough. Our mind wants to stay where it’s comfortable, which means doing the same things we’ve always done[1].

We worry: how do we know if we’re making the right decision? We wish we knew more. How do we make a decision without all of the necessary information?

We feel stuck. How do we get past fear and move forward with that thing we want to do?

Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are 7 things to remember when you want to move forward and make positive life changes.

1. You’ll Never Have All the Information

We often avoid making important decisions because we want more information before we make a tough call.

Yes, it’s certainly true that you need to do your research, but if you’re waiting for the crystal clear answer to come to you, then you’re going to be waiting a long time. As humans, we are curious creatures, and our need for information can be paralyzing.

Life is a series of guesses, mistakes, and revisions. Make the best decision you can at the time and continue to move forward. This also means learning to listen to and trust your intuition. Here’s how.

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2. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself

We make all sorts of excuses for not making important life changes, but the limiting belief that often underlies many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves to do the right thing.

We think that if we get into a new situation, we won’t know what to do or how to react. We’re worried that the uncharted territory of the future will be too much for us to handle.

Give yourself more credit than that.

You’ve dealt with unexpected changes before, right? And when your car got a flat tire on the way to work, how did that end up? Or when you were unexpectedly dumped?

In the end, you were fine.

Humans are amazingly adaptable, and your whole life has been helping you develop skills to face unexpected challenges.

Have enough courage to trust yourself. No matter what happens, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Like jealousy, most of your fears are created in your own head.

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When you actually sit down and think about the worst case scenario, you’ll realize that there are actually very few risks that you can’t recover from.

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Once you realize the worst isn’t that bad, you’ll be ready to crush it.

When you’re preparing to make a big life change, write down all of the things you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Of looking silly? Of losing money? Of being unhappy?

Then, address each fear by writing down ways you can overcome them. For example, if you’re afraid of losing money, can you take a few months to save up a safety net?

4. It’s Just as Much About the Process as It Is About the Result

We’re so wrapped up in results when we think about major life changes. We worry that if we start out towards a big goal, then we might not make it to the finish line.

However, you’re allowed to change your mind. And failing will only help you learn what not to do next time.

Furthermore, just because you don’t reach the final goal doesn’t mean you failed. You chose the goal in the first place, but you’re allowed to alter it if you find that the goal isn’t working out the way you hoped. Failure is not a destination, and neither is success.

Enjoy the process of moving forward[2].

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5. Continue to Pursue Opportunity

If you’re on the fence about a big decision, then you might be worried about getting locked into a position that you can’t escape from.

Think about it a different way. New choices rarely limit your options.

In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.

If you pursue the interesting opportunities that arise along the path to your goal, then you can be sure that you’ll always have choices.

6. Effort Matters, So Use It

It sounds simple, but one of the big reasons we don’t make life changes is because we don’t try. And we don’t try because then it’s easy to make excuses for why we don’t get what we want.

Flunked that test? Are you stupid? “Of course I’m not stupid. I just didn’t study. I would have gotten an A if I actually studied.”

Stuck in a job you hate? Why haven’t you found a new job yet? “Well, I haven’t really tried to get a new job. I could totally ace that interview if I wanted.”

Why do we make excuses like these to ourselves? It’s because if we try and fail, then we just failed. But if we don’t try, we can chalk it up to laziness.

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Get over it. Failure happens to everyone.

And the funny thing is, if you actually try—because it’s pretty clear that most people aren’t trying—then you’ll win a lot more than you think.

7. Start With Something Manageable

You can’t climb Everest if you don’t try hiking beforehand.

Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?

Can you talk to someone who already has that position and see what they think makes them successful? Can you improve your skills so you meet one of the qualifications? Can you take a free online course to expand your resume?

Maybe you’re not quite ready for a long-term relationship, but you know you want to start dating. Could you try asking out a mutual friend? Can you go out more with friends to practice your communication skills and meet new people?

You don’t need to be a world changer today; you just need to make small life changes in your own world.

More Tips to Help You Make Life Changes

Featured photo credit: Victor Rodriguez via unsplash.com

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