“That which holds the attention, determines the action.”
– William James
Once, there was a lighthouse keeper who worked on a rocky stretch of coastline before the days of electricity. Once a month, he would receive a new supply of oil to keep the light burning so that ships could safely sail near the rocky coast.
Not being far from town, he often had visitors. One night an old woman from the village came and begged for some oil to keep her family warm. He had pity on her and gave her oil. Another time a father asked for some oil for his lamp so that he could search for his missing son. Later, an industrialist in town needed oil to keep machinery going so that his employees could keep working. Each request was good, and each time, the lighthouse keeper gave them oil for their worthy cause. But toward the end of the month, his supply was low, and when it was gone, the light on the lighthouse went out. That very night, a ship wrecked on the rocks and many lives were lost.
When the authorities investigated, the man was very remorseful. He told them he was just trying to be helpful with the oil. Their reply to his excuses and pleading, however, was simple and to the point: “You were given oil for one purpose–to keep that light burning!”. The lighthouse keeper had been given oil exclusively for that purpose, and it escaped him.
. . .
We are all given 1440 minutes every day. And we are all given a limited amount of attention and willpower. Like the oil in the case of the lighthouse keeper, every day our most precious resources — our time, our attention, our energy, and our willpower — are renewed.
It’s best that we direct these resources to the fulfilment of our purpose. First and foremost, as Jim Rohn advised, we must learn to separate the majors and minors. Majoring in minor things only leads to struggle and despair. If you want to be successful in the long run, you must develop the skill to focus on the big rocks, not the gravel.
While most of us can train ourselves to distinguish the good from the bad, the right from the wrong, and the major from the minor through philosophy, introspection and experience, the real challenge comes when we come across two promising options. Which do we choose if both are good? The lightkeeper in the above-mentioned story sure goes through his dilemma.
The more we progress in our lives and the more successful and busier we become, the more we encounter situations where we must pick between two good and worthy choices. So, how do we navigate this dilemma and how do we choose? By remembering the bigger picture and giving more importance to your purpose and your top priorities, not on the short-term gains. By reminding yourself that, sometimes, the good must be sacrificed for the great!
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