March 13, 2016
When you get so wrapped up in your work, you lose touch with reality. The problems and decisions can seem so important that nothing else matters, as if it’s a matter of life and death.
When you zoom out and understand the smallness of the situation, it helps you do better work and make smarter decisions. Take a step back and give some space to what’s at hand.
However, this is not a one-time realization. It’s easy to forget and get lost in the flurry of daily stress.
Continuously remind yourself about the bigger picture. Robert Rubin, former Secretary of the Treasury and former director of Citigroup, explains his own method in his autobiography:
During my years at Harvard I developed a feeling that, on the one hand, the here and now mattered a great deal, while on the other hand, in the totality of time and space, in some ultimate sense, that significance shrinks. How much will anything that happens today matter a hundred thousand years from now? Somehow, this internalized duality allowed me to maintain an intense involvement in whatever I was doing, while at the same time retaining a sense of perspective and a feeling that I could always opt for an entirely different kind of life.
Robert also stays grounded by knowing he has the hypothetical freedom to step away and live the easy life if he really wanted. He reminds himself that it’s his own conscious decision to do this work:
As the years went by, even as I became part of the establishment, I could just say good-bye, put on a pair of frayed khakis, and check into the hotel in St.-Germain-des-Pres. People who have never seen me without a pinstripe suit may find this somewhat incongruous, but I felt then, and feel even now, that I could comfortably opt for a more relaxed, unstructured existence. That feeling may not be realistic, but my belief in this possibility has been a mental escape hatch in times of pressure.
Liberation is within reach in your own mind.