When I was young, a wise teacher asked me how I wanted to be known at the end of my life. I said I’d want to be known as a Reformer.
As a Northwestern coed, I tried to reform everything from the grading system, to the campus Standards Committee – even the National Student Association. I was so involved in such efforts that I referred to myself as an Activities Major.
And I actually got credit for graduation by doing independent work that exposed political intrigue within the NSA. (I found out years later that the Kennedy administration had me followed as a suspected double agent.)
Around then, a favorite professor took me aside and said, “You’re going to burn out. You have to choose your battles. You can’t take on the whole world.”
I didn’t want to believe him. Setting priorities has always gone against my grain.
Now, I truly HAVE to choose my battles. Damn. Age limits time and energy – just when I’m at the top of my game.
Which battle should I choose? Reducing suicides among youths?
Confronting ageism in work places?
Improving awareness of patients’ intrinsic needs?
Correcting misperceptions concerning ADHD?
Teaching people how to build Conasiums?
I’m not going to stop making my family my top priority – even though an advisor told me my efforts with my grandkids would rob me of international recognition. My choice is to hope they will have a multiplying effect on any differences I could make in the world.
While I still can, should I finally choose to take on the academic world and confront the ignorance about the conative dimension of the mind? Or is that still a waste of time?
Should I simply decide to plant more flowers than ideas? Or finally, to bake cookies rather than construct theories?
Because I’ve assessed the role of Willpower, do I have to use my Will to correct all the misinformation concerning it?
There was a time, as an adult, when I couldn’t read or write, due to traumatic brain injuries suffered in a car accident. It gave me a year and a half grace period, during which I lived by my instincts.
It felt truly wonderful not to have to make my own choices.
It was then that I was able to experience the benefits of the rule I later shared with others: Do Nothing – When Nothing Works. (Should I choose to be glad Oprah, years later, used almost those exact words? Or should I choose to confront her for lack of proper attribution?)
The extremely painful and exhausting recovery process forced me to choose what I would not try to do.
I choose not to eat what I love, because weight loss would help me walk more easily.
I choose not to be in bed past 7:00 am or before 10:00 pm.
I choose never to watch day-time TV.
I choose not to utter the word “pain” or listen to a word of pity.
Choosing what NOT to do has been the key to my remaining productive as I enter my 8th decade if life.
We don’t need to choose which battles to take on. They will choose us.
We need to wisely choose which battles to ignore.
I chose to ignore:
- women of a certain age who still put knives in other women’s backs.
- doctors who stereotype needs by age.
- educators and other “specialists” who ignore the input of parents (or spouses).
- people who don’t “get” the degree of gender bias we female entrepreneurs had to overcome in the 1970’s – that still exist.
- people who think being dyslexic is “curable.”
- people who say they never heard of Conation, so it “can’t be a real.”
- people who don’t value the opinions of youth.
- All nay-sayers.
- anyone who assumes they know just how I feel.
I’m still asking myself what I want to be when I grow up. I don’t have a bucket list – just let me keep reforming.