After the previous 2 posts on Ari Wallach’s approach to getting form short-termism to a more strategic approach to our lives, our society and our environment, the last post in this mini-series addresses Telos thinking:
“Telos comes from Greek, and it means “ultimate aim” or “ultimate purpose.” This entails asking ourselves one question: “To what end?” As we try to solve many of our daily problems, we should think about what will come after we solve them.” (quote from the TED talk “3 ways to plan for the (very) long term)
Like for the previous 2 approaches he proposes: “transgenerational thinking” and “futures thinking“, I discover that even at the level of daily activities and with the nitty gritty stuff of our lives, keeping the ultimate aim in mind helps getting clarity on what we really need and want to do. It also supports us in placing those things we might not like doing so much in a bigger context and the perspective helps making those tasks more meaningful and bearable.
In my own life, there many activities that keep a family and a business going, which are not necessarily my favorite ones. There are things I like doing, because of what they are and how I can use my skills, like cooking, writing, reading and reaching out to community. There are others that I do, because they really need to get done.
My THING is laundry… as long as I referred to it as the necessary evil, I disliked every moment of it, I saw stains on my kids cloths as their way to keep me away from the things that really matter to me. The shift came, when in my own coaching program during my training, I took a closer look at WHY I am doing the laundry and why I do not outsource it if I maybe could.
It was enough to ask “why” just often enough to start uncovering the ultimate aims. One part of my thinking is that I want to do it in a certain way, because I have views how to impact the planet as little as possible with cleaning our cloths. The other part went further in the way clean cloths contribute to educating our children, giving them a sense of being taken care of, of preserving things, of being able to fix something that was spoiled, of being able to adapt our appearance without losing identity (when I wash the favorite T-Shirt in the evening so it can be worn again, non-smelly, the next morning), … and so on.
I realize that with an ultimate (or at least larger) aim perspective, like me, my clients find meaning in tasks they procrastinate on or are fearful to start. The ultimate goal helps us to find time, courage and interest to start or carry on things through that are part of our paths.
As a practice, chose one thing you really don’t like doing and yet you feel you must do. Then, ask yourself at least 5 times “why?”: Start with “Why do I have to do it?” and then question every answer again with a “why?”.
After this process, are you discovering things you can simply stop doing? Or are they making more sense now?