II. Pragmatic Priorities – Choose Your Battles

By Leon Ho, Founder of Lifehack

We live in a world that applauds the jack of all trades, the master of everything, the do-it-all heroes. We’re encouraged, from an early age, to be limitless, to strive to know it all, to conquer every task that comes our way.

Our schools, those grand training grounds of the mind, celebrate those among us who are straight A’s students. They stand at the pinnacle, the epitome of success, their brilliance radiant for everyone to see. They embody perfection, or so it seems, with their report cards boasting of no weakness, no flaw. This image of perfection is held high and mighty, making many wish to mirror that reflection, to be that ideal.

Pause for a moment, and think. Can you recall a time when a teacher or a parent encouraged a child to give up on a subject? To let it slide into failure? No, you won’t, because the rallying cry of our education system is “pass them all”. It’s a mentality that casts a long, overwhelming shadow, one we carry forward into adulthood.

As adults, we often equate success with a mental checklist that demands everything from us. Know it all, have it all, do it all – perfectly, to boot. The badge of success seems to be bestowed upon those who appear to “have it all”. The stellar career, the perfect family, the picturesque house – it’s the familiar backdrop to the narrative of what success looks like.

But let’s take a step back. Is this relentless quest for knowing everything and having everything realistic? Is it even humanly possible?

The Simple Truth: We All Have Limitations

Let’s face it: we are finite beings. We are bound by limitations, even if our society paints this reality as a shortcoming.

The playing field of life isn’t always smooth or predictable. Unexpected obstacles can spring up, tripping even the most prepared among us. And let’s not forget circumstances – they have a knack for tossing curveballs at us, usually when we least expect them.

There are countless elements in life that we simply can’t control. You might be at the top of your game one moment, and the next, you stumble upon a wall, an invisible barrier. It’s an encounter with your limit, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

It’s not a failure, not by a long shot. It’s just being human. We humans are, by our very nature, creatures of limits.

The harsh reality is, if you’re waiting for a life where everything is under control, where you experience zero limitations, to get what you want, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

If your success hinges on everything being flawless and smooth sailing, it’s safe to say that you may never evolve into the person you aspire to be.

Embrace the Reality of Your Limitations

Let’s turn our gaze towards a real-life story, one that encapsulates this concept brilliantly.

Phil Hansen, an artist who decided to not only acknowledge his limitation but also embrace it, turning it into an opportunity that transformed his life.[1]

As an art student, Phil had mastered a specific pointillist style. But then, a physical injury, a direct consequence of creating art in his beloved style, forced him to abandon it.

His dreams were shattered, his inspiration dwindled, and Phil found himself stepping away from the art world altogether for three years. All he could focus on was the limitation imposed by his injury.

However, after three long years, the allure of art tugged at his heartstrings. He consulted a neurologist, only to be informed that the nerve damage causing the tremor in his hand was permanent. But it was the doctor’s advice that changed everything. He said,

“Why don’t you just embrace the shake?”

And just like that, a seed was planted in Phil’s mind.

Choosing to embrace his limitation, Phil began to incorporate the shaky lines, the ones he couldn’t help but make, into his art. The tremor in his hand, which once seemed to be a barrier, turned into a bridge, leading him to create art in ways he never could’ve imagined.

His experience taught him a valuable lesson about the power of limitations. He states,

“We need to first be limited in order to become limitless… Limitations may be the most unlikely of places to harness creativity, but perhaps one of the best ways to get ourselves out of ruts, rethink categories, and challenge accepted norms.”

In Phil’s journey, we find a powerful message for us all:

The best chance we have to change ourselves and, together, change our world is to learn to be creative within the constraints of our limits.

Embracing your limitations isn’t about admitting defeat. Rather, it’s the first step to seizing control of your life.

Recognize that you can’t wrestle with everything at once. There’s only so much you can juggle. You must decide what’s essential, prioritize accordingly, and channel your time and energy optimally. It’s all about intentional control – deciding where your time is best spent.

Rather than sitting around waiting for circumstances to change, be proactive. Adapt yourself to the realities around you. It’s about setting expectations that align with your reality. You might start with a small commitment – it could be as modest as one hour a day. That’s perfectly fine. What matters is being flexible, being realistic, and being honest with yourself about the time you’re truly willing to commit. Once you’ve made a promise to yourself, honor it.

Remember, embracing your limitations doesn’t equate to mediocrity or failure. It’s about realistically assessing your strengths, acknowledging your weaknesses, and playing your hand to the best of your ability. And in doing so, you’d be surprised at how often limitations can be transformed into opportunities.

Navigating Your Limitations

Albert Einstein once said,

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

These words resonate deeply when we consider our own unique strengths and talents.

Forcing ourselves into roles or tasks that don’t align with our strengths, or go beyond our genuine limits, isn’t a recipe for growth. It’s akin to that fish trying to climb a tree.

It’s not that pushing boundaries is a bad thing; quite the opposite. But there’s a stark difference between challenging ourselves to unlock hidden potential and stubbornly hammering away at something that simply isn’t in our wheelhouse.

Think of all the people who’ve reached the pinnacle of success. They have their specific domains. A renowned fiction writer isn’t likely to also be a groundbreaking scientist. Sure, it’s an extreme example, but it makes the point clear: specializations matter.

Take restaurants, for instance. A place offering a mishmash of dishes from around the world – Asian stir-fries, Greek gyros, American burgers, Italian pizzas – might struggle to achieve the same acclaim as a niche restaurant that specializes exclusively in, say, sushi. The latter is more likely to be perceived as a master of its craft.

So, what am I getting at? It’s simple: Pick your battles. Lean into what you’re genuinely good at. Instead of spreading yourself thin across myriad domains, double down on your strengths. That doesn’t mean abandoning all other pursuits – there’s always room for growth and learning. But priorities matter.

Consider everything in terms of importance: there are the “must-haves” – the areas where you excel and should focus most of your energy; the “should-haves” – areas important for rounded growth but not necessarily your top strengths; and then the “good-to-haves” – areas worth exploring if time and energy permit.

In a nutshell, hone in on your strengths, challenge your boundaries thoughtfully, and choose your battles with intention. Doing so not only positions you for success but also for a fulfilling journey along the way.

Pragmatic Priorities – Choose Your Battles

One of the key philosophies of The Time Flow System – Pragmatic Priorities – Choose Your Battles, urges you to cast away societal expectations of ‘doing it all.’ Instead, it emphasizes the importance of choosing your battles wisely, based on a pragmatic understanding of your own strengths, limitations, and priorities.

In essence, it’s about focusing your efforts where they count the most – where you can make the most significant impact.

It’s a philosophy rooted in realism and the acceptance of our inherent human limitations. Rather than juggling every conceivable task or chasing every potential opportunity, you should identify the areas where you truly excel, where your passions lie, and where you can make the most substantial difference.

By embracing this philosophy, you learn to navigate your way through life’s many challenges with increased efficiency and less frustration.

Choosing our battles isn’t about accepting mediocrity or denying our ambitions; it’s about acknowledging the finite nature of our time and energy, and using them in ways that bring us the most satisfaction and success. It’s about being pragmatic in setting our priorities and understanding that in our limitations, we can often find our greatest strengths.


[1]Ted Talk: Embrace the Shake