My husband Neil and I are opposites in some respects. One difference that has been obvious for decades has to do with our approaches to task completion. Neil loves the actual process of working on a task, whatever it may be, and often has no particular drive to wrap it up in a neat little package and call it “done.”
I, on the other hand, am a list-maker and love to complete the items on my list so that I can check them off. I’ll even go so far as to put on a list something that I just finished but hadn’t listed, just so I can cross it off! It’s not important to me that I totally eliminate my lists. In fact, I enjoy the process of creating my lists and re-creating them (with pencil and paper) a day or two later, after the old one has been marked up by check-offs.
So Neil has a strong process focus, and I have a strong outcome or accomplishment focus. That creates tension between us. I have to confess that most of the tension originates with me, as I try to push Neil to finish up – soon!
It’s pretty clear what each of our styles is, but is one of our styles actually better than the other? Human beings tend to ask that sort of better/worse question, but it’s probably less useful to try to declare a winner than it might appear. Most of us don’t live in the black or white extremes of a continuum like that. We’re usually various shades of gray.
And I’ve noticed that over the years, especially since we learned about Neil’s and my ADHD, Neil and I have grown just a little more like each other. Neil has learned that he needs to write things down or he’ll forget the important things he needs to do. He now uses a digital reminders list and has gotten better and better at pulling out his phone whenever a new to-do item comes to mind. He’s even getting better at actually looking at those lists on his phone.
I have gotten better at letting Neil’s projects remain incomplete, sometimes for years, but I have also learned that there is value to me in being less driven about completing tasks – in stepping back and noticing a beautiful spring day, for example, or the hummingbird that arrived early this year.
We often tell our clients how important it is for them to discover their strengths and build on them, and it is!
It can also be important to enjoy the positive aspects of things that challenge us. In the last Hint, Neil spoke about the benefits of distractibility and how that trait proved useful to him in his career.
I am learning to take a breath and step back and be less driven to complete those items on my list(s).
We live in those shades of gray. Our world would not be nearly so rich and nuanced and varied if we lived at the black and white extremes. And we would not enjoy our lives as much. Nor are we as comfortable in our own skin if we think we have to achieve a perfect black or white on the continuum. I’m finding that taking a breath and stepping back to get a little perspective, to see the shades of gray, to have a little self-compassion and compassion directed at others is pretty much always a useful thing to do. What do you think? If any of these thoughts resonate with you, try wearing gray!