A few months ago, I was talking with a good friend about a challenging situation. During the conversation, something he said intrigued me so much that I had to find out where it came from. The sentence was, “Choose your hard.” After a few minutes of research, I discovered that the sentence is part of a poem by Devon Brough. I find it so thought-provoking and applicable to many different situations (including organizing) that I decided to share it.
Marriage is hard.
Divorce is hard.
Choose your hard.
Obesity is hard.
Being fit is hard.
Choose your hard.
Being in debt is hard.
Being financially disciplined is hard.
Choose your hard.
Communication is hard.
Not communicating is hard.
Choose your hard.
Life will never be easy.
It will always be hard.
But we can choose our hard.
— Devon Brough
Choose Your Hard: Goals
We all have goals we’re struggling to reach. Perhaps we want to be more physically fit, so we set a goal of getting up early to exercise. When the alarm goes off, we’re still tired, but we get up and start exercising. Getting up is hard, and the exercise itself is hard.
Now suppose we don’t make the effort to change, and we remain in poor physical condition. We’re out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs, our clothes are too tight, and we have more aches and pains. And that’s hard too. Either way, it’s hard. But we get to choose our hard. Our action (or inaction) determines which kind of hard we will experience.
Choose Your Hard: Organizing
No doubt about it, getting organized and staying organized is hard. It requires looking ahead, setting goals, and shuffling activities and belongings. If we decide the work is too hard, and we don’t make the effort to get organized, the consequences are hard. If we don’t take time to put things away, we end up with stuff everywhere. We waste time looking for things we can’t find. We buy new ones, which wastes money. We forget appointments, or we’re late because we didn’t plan ahead. We’re stressed out because of the disorder in our lives and in our home. All of those consequences are hard.
Ultimately, we can choose the hard of organizing or the hard of disorganization’s consequences. It’s our choice. After five years of helping clients organize, I can tell you with surety that time spent organizing is worth it. The hard of organizing causes less suffering than the hard of chaos.
A Gift to Your Future Me
I’m reminded of a presentation by Adam Savage at the 2019 IDEAcademy conference. Savage wrote the book “Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life is What You Make It,” and he was the star of the television show “MythBusters” from 2003-2016. His special effects have been featured in movies such as “Star Wars” and “Galaxy Quest.” I was fascinated by his presentation, especially when he talked about organizing his shop.
Adam described the process of tinkering with tools and the wide assortment of materials in his shop and the resulting mess. He said, “I love cleaning up my shop at the end of the day. I hate cleaning up my shop at the end of the day. I think of cleaning up at the end of the day as a conversation between my present me and my future me.”
He recalled an experience in which he found some Christmas lights and noticed that he had taken the time to organize the lights before putting them away. His response to that discovery was, “I totally forgot that I did that. Thank you, past me!”
Looking at this scenario from the standpoint of “choose your hard,” I would describe it this way. Adam spends a day in his shop pulling out lots of tools and random items, trying to figure out how to design a prop for an upcoming movie. At the end of the day, his body and his mind are tired. He wants nothing more than to just leave the shop and relax for the rest of the day. Taking the extra time and energy to put everything back and clean up the shop is hard.
If he decides not to spend the time putting things away and cleaning up, the next morning when he comes back to the shop to work again, it’s hard. He’s rested and ready to get going, but he has no space to work. The workspaces are all covered with the items he used yesterday but didn’t put away. So now he has to start the day with cleanup when he’d much rather get busy designing that prop.
Whichever decision he makes, he has to endure something hard. But he chooses the hard. When he makes the choice to clean up, he’s always glad he did. His future self thanks his past self for the efforts.
Choose Your Hard: Travel
We all have similar situations. Here’s one example: Many of us will be traveling this summer. When we return from our vacation with our luggage, dirty clothes, and the miscellaneous items we packed, we will long to just bring in the bare minimum of stuff from the car and collapse. Surely the unpacking, laundry, grocery run, and planning of the next few days can wait. It’s too hard to get busy with all of those tasks right away. We just need to relax a little first, then we’ll get to it.
If you choose this easy route, the next few days will be really hard! You won’t have clean clothes. You’ll be looking everywhere for that pair of shoes you think you took with you. You forget that you volunteered for the neighborhood camp carpool next week. After a frantic call from your neighbor, you dash out the door in a stressful frenzy. Since you didn’t completely empty the car, there’s not enough room for everyone, and you have to quickly toss the rest of the car’s contents into the garage at the last minute.
Since you didn’t go to the grocery right away, you’re surviving on fast food until the weekend. The relaxing vacation vibe has been replaced by a stressful week of playing catchup. Everyone in the family is stressed out, and you feel like you need another vacation.
Can you relate? The next time you’re tempted not to do something because it’s hard, remember this concept, and choose wisely.