15. Experiencing Your Perspective of Time – Rhythm
“Humans live in time. Therefore, attend chiefly to two things: to eternity itself and to the present. For the present is the point at which time touches eternity. In it alone, freedom and actuality are offered.”
C. S. Lewis
In the precious present, we need to be aware of who we are, how we move, and what naturally draws our attention. These things reflect our strengths and disabilities.
Most of us feel that we are being pulled in too many directions. Your nutritionist advises, “If you want to be healthy, follow a simple macrobiotic diet. Boil your rice for five hours a day and prepare dinner using raw foods.” Your physical trainer tells you, “You should work out three to four times a week.” Your employer requests, “Please join the company baseball team. It only plays once a month.” Your son’s teacher asks, “Can you help out in the classroom just every other week?” And your family rightfully takes up a lot of your time.
Everyone struggles with time management. It can be a negative subject because of our cultural emphasis on speed and productivity. Time management experts tell us it’s easy to manage time and give us practical methods and devices to do so. They offer a one-size-fits-all tool. They try to make time management substantive rather than abstract. The problem is that time is both substantive and abstract.
There are time management tools in every mall in America. But because most people don’t have a structural attribute, time management is difficult for them. It eludes their efforts. That’s because we try to capture and manage the abstract concept of time as if we were lassoing a steer. Many of us have been told that our lack of organization or lack of self-discipline predisposes us to fail in managing our time well. We surround ourselves with tools to help us solve the problem. We end up with charts, lists, and various time management aids all around us; misused debris mocking our failure with their presence.
I love to walk through a giant office supply store picking up little items and gadgets and clear plastic boxes. I love the idea of being efficient and organized. When a personal organizer came to our home to shape us up, she was shocked to find a section of our closet filled with organizing materials…still wrapped in the original packaging. I have a sincere desire for efficiency, order, and the ability to effectively manage my day…but I did what most other people do, focus on it as an internal failure to be solved only by an external solution or motivator.
To utilize your resources and energy wisely, you have to be effective with your time. And that comes from taking a serious look at how you use and move through time. This is particularly hard to see naturally because it never occurs to us to look at it internally. My aim is help you to consciously inventory how you naturally see, move through and relate to time.
There are four different areas of Time Awareness:
1. Rhythm – Your pace as you move through time.
2. Focus – What you perceive as real, whether it is present moment or bigger picture.
3. Performance – What you actually accomplish on your conveyor belt of time.
4. Energy – Your abstract view of time, whether it has an end for you or is constant and ongoing.
Rhythm is the pace at which you most comfortably move through time. The unique way you apply your dominant abilities is most free and fluid when you move at your own rhythm. As you become aware of your own pace and the pace of those with whom you work and live, you learn how to interact more effectively.
If you were in a plane that was going down, you wouldn’t want a Meticulous person as the pilot. He’d take his time being correct, and the plane would crash. You’d want someone who was Expeditious, someone who could move quickly, process information fast and save you. On the other hand, if you needed heart surgery, you wouldn’t want an Expeditious surgeon with ten operations scheduled that day. You’d want your heart surgeon to be Meticulous because his attention to detail could save your life.
We tend to assume that others have the same rhythm as our own. Tempers flare when Meticulous and Rapid people work or play together…or drive on the freeway. Most of us have experienced this: a family is trying to get out the door to an event on time; they’re all waiting in the car for the Meticulous person who is still in the house getting ready. Talk about aggravation! This situation needs a Temperate person to keep things under control. When you understand and appreciate natural rhythm, your own and others, your life will get easier at work and at home. Go with the natural rhythm you have. Accept, understand and work with the different natural rhythms of others.
The four rhythms we will discuss are, naturally: Rapid, Meticulous, Temperate and Expeditious.
Rapid people cover a lot of ground quickly. They do everything fast. They’re designed to be impatient. Details can be insignificant to them. Because they move quickly, they’re apt to make mistakes, but mistakes are not a major concern for them. In fact, movement, action and experience take priority over correctness. Rapid people engage passionately in life.
Do you know someone who is effervescent, exuberant and spontaneous; people who can think quickly on their feet; someone whose fast come-backs make you laugh? Chances are you’ve encountered individualswho move through time rapidly. Jim Carey and Robin Williams make audiences marvel at the speed of their improvisational humor. Wall Street traders on the Exchange floor quickly handle bids during market fluctuations. The fast-talking auctioneer sees all the bidders and keeps the bids moving. The DJ keeps the party moving. In our fast-paced society, they can help us keep up and adjust.
Rapids easily become frustrated by delays. Waiting patiently seems oppressive to them. Delays make them feel that others are keeping them from accomplishing their goals. Although patience is not natural for them, they need to become aware that most people in their environment do not move, execute, think, or process information as fast as they do. This is an essential point of awareness because they need support from those who do pay attention to detail. It is also important because Rapids love to delegate. They can gift others with leadership and cause others to move into action.
It is essential for them to develop the patience to educate others to their Rapid rhythm. Otherwise, they might be viewed as flighty, frivolous, gruff or irritable. They can display bad temper at anyone who slows them down. Rapid people feel that they are being pulled off the racetrack and forced into an unwanted pit-stop. They can regard the delaying person as an enemy or antagonist, and they can extend that regard to their spouse, children and friends.
Patience is the answer, and Rapid people must reward themselves with spontaneity and play when they manage patience in their lives.
Meticulous people are on the other end of the time spectrum. These individuals are naturally deliberate in moving through time and accomplishing their daily tasks. They are designed to be careful and methodical. The author, Sidney Sheldon, claims that he allows himself twelve rewrites before considering a book ready for his readers. Michelangelo, a Meticulous artist, devoted a full five years to painting and repainting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Examples of Meticulous people in demanding occupations include the Supreme Court Justice who needs exceptional patience to review complicated cases, the engineer who must be thorough in building structures, the heart surgeon, research scientist, editor, and diamond cutter. Our complex world is made up of countless details. Monitoring the details is necessary to its operation and vital to its smooth operation.
Those who are Meticulous have a supreme standard of excellence. They pay painstaking attention to detail and hate to make mistakes. They gift others with thoroughness and elevate the general standard of excellence. When you meet someone who delights in careful accomplishment, deliberates over details of a project, or pauses to weigh a thought or action, you have encountered a Meticulous individual.
Because their rhythm is closely tied to their value system, Meticulous people tend to impose their slow, time-consuming, careful pace on other people, organizations, processes, and environments. While their exacting and methodical approach is usually beneficial, it is not always appropriate. They need to realize that it can be inappropriate and counter-productive. They can spend excessive amounts of time on things that don’t require critical excellence…wasting hours, energy and resources. Meticulous individuals must discipline themselves to deliver according to the expectations of others involved. Their own internal standard might well be unrealistic for the situation.
Meticulous persons can get caught up in a complex and damaging spiral which results from an unmanaged fear of imperfection. First, comes the fear of delegating. They’re aware that, if they delegate to someone and that person makes a mistake, the silver bullet of blame comes back to strike them. The only way they can delegate is to articulate precisely how they want something done, according to their philosophy. For Meticulous one to trust, the delegates must also articulate and emulate the Meticulous one’s philosophy. The second element of the spiral is fear of themselves making a mistake. This can lead to analysisparalysis. They need to realize that making a mistake is not the end of the world. Mistakes are inevitable and, in some ways, desirable. A mistake can usually be righted with a mid-course correction which can clarify and eventually lead to unanticipated excellence. Third in the spiral is the fear of being judged. This is the most insidious element because it can be fed secretly by the Meticulous value system. This fear demands that Meticulous persons spend inordinate amounts of time on even the most basic tasks. It confounds their performance and cuts their productivity.
Meticulous individuals can free themselves from these fears by establishing the needs of their audience and delivering excellence according to those needs…not their own internal standard. This will give them the ability to move forward at a reasonable pace. Also, they must learn to allow others to accomplish tasks in their own styles. It is difficult for Meticulous individuals to do so. They would do well to listen to the words of Mark Twain: “Courage is the resistance to fear, the mastery of fear, and not the absence of fear.”
Temperate people adjust their pace to their circumstances. The journalist switches from routine news to a dramatic breaking story; the business leader swings from the crunch of meeting a deadline back to everyday corporate matters; both are Temperate examples. You may not notice them right away because this characteristic focuses on stabilizing rather than creating drama. The person who supports, stabilizes or reassures probably has a Temperate characteristic in their profile. It’s not glamorous and usually operates behind the scenes. However, we would remain in constant flux if we didn’t have those who place a priority on stability. The nurse, office manager, tax advisor and legal counselor are other good examples. We would be exhausted from the highs and lows of our lives without the stabilizing influence of Temperate people. Former Chief of Staff, now Secretary of State, Colin Powell can easily adjust his pace from a quick strike during a conflict to deliberating over Mid-East peace negotiations. He adjusts his speed to match his environment with stabilization as a primary goal.
Temperate persons are natural regulators with respect to rhythm. They help Rapid people slow down and work successfully within a group, and they help Meticulous people speed up and catch up with others, accomplish tasks, meet deadlines, and enjoy the process. They want tasks completed in a reasonable amount of time while taking care of details. They have the ability to dance to different rhythms in multiple environments, adjusting appropriately.
Temperate Rhythm is most sensitive to environment. Temperate individuals need stability in their life in order to gift others with stability. Without it, they don’t have the clarity to carry out their work. If they have to spend vast amounts of energy trying to synchronize with either a Rapid or Meticulous rhythm, they can be derailed. On the other hand, if they dote on stability, they can miss out on opportunities for growth, enjoyment and success. Stability can become an end in itself for them. They have to temper their desire for stability in order to allow for growth.
They naturally promote balance and stability, and need to engage and educate others from this balanced perspective.
Expeditious people are dedicated to accomplishment, and this determines their rhythm. For them, accomplishment involves getting things done quickly and efficiently, in a way that is noteworthy.
Air traffic controllers must be able to think quickly and simultaneously maintain a high level of quality and precision in their work. The Emergency Room doctor on a busy night moves deftly from one gurney to another, deciding who needs priority treatment. Our fast-paced society needs people who can move quickly while keeping a high standard of excellence. News editors, airline pilots, firefighters, and chefs serve us with expedited excellence.
The ultimate filter question for an Expeditious person is: “Do I want this done fast or do I want this done well?” They must ask themselves that catch-question about everything they do.
Expeditious individuals have limited patience. They are easily frustrated by delays. Waiting patiently seems oppressive to them, making them feel that others are keeping them from accomplishing their goals. Like Rapids, they need to be reminded that most people do not move, perform, think, or process information as fast as they do.
Their desire for fast accomplishment with excellence can generate internal conflict. Unlike Rapids, for them, attention to detail is as important as movement, action and experience. Speed cannot be an excuse for mediocre work.
It is important for them to educate others about their rhythm so they are not perceived as Jekyll-Hyde types when they register frustration at delays.
Meticulous, Temperate and Expeditious are key characteristics. If you have one of these in your profile, it is an essential component of your stability and a point of interaction with all your other attributes.