One Country A Year

I’ll never forget reading Julie Morgenstern’s book, “Organizing from the Inside Out,” where she spoke about working with a client who was obsessed with books on different countries. He had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with books on different countries and cultures and stacks of books that covered his desk, “shared” (obviously he wasn’t sharing very much!) space, and even on the dining room table. It begs the question, “Where does passion become pathology?” Julie tried to reason with him to streamline the sheer mass of his love affair with learning but he recoiled, saying he couldn’t give them up.
“Why not commit to one country per year?” was her response, which I thought made total sense and somehow calmed the demons of diffuse learning that were making his life unmanageable. She went on to say that each year he could take on one country, devour as many books as he wanted (and store the rest since Lord knows he wasn’t willing to give them away), and the next year he could either renew his lust of learning about country or move to another one. He immediately calmed down, agreed, and started packing the others away.
I related to this story because I am, and always will be, a life long learner, curious about almost everything. (Last month on the subway, I found myself in an overly zealous conversation with a typographer on the history of the font Helvetica, to which the other riders looked on at us like we were nuts!) I’m actually grateful when there’s something I’m not interested in learning about, and yet when I hear that I can take a year or any self-appointed segment of time, to just commit to a specific body of knowledge, an area of interest, or a pet hobby, I feel a wave of relief and enthusiasm.
That’s where coaching comes in so handy. Most of my clients come to me feeling like they need a whole life makeover. Yet what they really need is to focus on where they want to go and to get some support, guidance and accountability about making some choices a priority, while taking incremental yet consistent actions, both internal and external. After a few weeks or months, “Bam!” Things start shifting for them.
So during your ’tis the season to be….(merry, stressed out, frantic, chasing after your life, etc.), may I suggest you find your own version of “One country a year,” and know that whether you like it or not, the rest of the countries, continents and hemispheres will definitely be there when you’re done focusing on what you need to accomplish right now and right in this moment.
With merriment and mirth!