Today I have been listening to an interview on Michael Hyatt’s #FreetoFocus productivity summit. Don’t ask how it happened that someone so very non-business-oriented as I am becomes involved in such a very businesslike event, because I have no idea.
I was captivated by two separate things shared by the guest Greg McKeown. Both of them have to do with word origins and how words change over time so, word nerd that I am, I found them fascinating.
#1 The word Vanity, in a very old dictionary, is defined as something that is futile and worthless– in essence, something that is not even real. I had to think of the way it is used in the King James version of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” In another translation, it is rendered, “Pointless! Utterly meaningless! Nothing matters!”
McKeown made the point that when we try very hard to stay on top of everything, be super-successful, accomplish more than everyone else, it may be simply about vanity. Not only the vanity of wanting people to see our amazing achievements, but also the vanity of being at the top. At some point, we discover that everything in life has a trade-off and we have traded some very real, very vital things (such as relationships, for instance) for fleeting triumphs that we later realize are worthless.
#2 The word Decide is even more interesting. It comes from a Latin root meaning “To cut off.” Yes….cut off. Has it ever occurred to you that when you are faced with an array of choices, you not only choose one but you also reject all the others? I somehow had never thought of it quite that way.
That goes along with the idea of trade-offs. You can’t possibly choose everything. When you decide to do one thing, you are also deciding NOT to do something else. When we decide, we are setting limits. We are turning away from one path in order to explore another.
Words are so interesting. And they teach us things.
Like the fact that not only do I need to really evaluate priorities—what is valuable and what is vanity—but I also need to think seriously about what I am excluding (cutting off) whenever I make a decision.
When I choose one thing, I lose another.
Because life only has room for a certain number of things.
Make them the things that count.