No Sense Friday: Dead-End Tasks

On a sunny day in 1862, Charles Dodgson was on a rowing trip with his reverend and three daughters of a friend. Stuck in a boat for hours, he told the girls a story. That story still touches millions of hearts today. Its name is Alice In Wonderland.

Like many others, I feel drawn to it because it gives me hope. Seeing Alice find her way helps me feel a little less lost. Of course, her journey isn’t without trials.

One of the first she encounters is the Cheshire Cat, sitting in the tree at a crossroads in the woods. Desperate for guidance, Alice asks:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

“I don’t much care where –”

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

In the moment, the Cat isn’t helping. She only speaks in riddles. But if you step back, you can see it’s the best advice she can give.

In The Daily Stoic, ancient habit lecturer Epictetus is quoted with a similarly cryptic, yet also useful point of view:

“I can’t call a person a hard worker just because I hear they read and write, even if working at it all night. Until I know what a person is working for, I can’t deem them industrious.”

How often do we get lost in work that doesn’t matter? How often are we taking a turn without thinking about where we want to go? Oh, it happens all too fast.

We begin a new beginning and, soon, our to-do lists are long and our schedules are crammed. One day, we wonder, “Why don’t I have time for this? Why can’t I sleep well? Why is my life so full?” Because we filled it. We just didn’t consider with what.

I call them dead-end tasks. Like many paths in the woods, they either lead nowhere or somewhere we don’t want to go. The earlier you can identify them, the better.

What are you doing right now? What are you working on? Why are you doing it? If you accomplish the tasks in front of you, where will that take you? Is that even a place where you’d like to go? Those are Cheshire Cat questions.

And if we don’t have any good answers, we should probably stop. Stay at the crossroads a little longer. It may lead to a good story but, most of the time, it’s better not to be stuck in a boat.

-Nik


About No Sense Friday: Most people live for Friday. Relaxing on the weekend is fine, but we can’t just waste it away every time. That’s why Friday is the most important day to call out things that make no sense. Because in a way, the concept of ‘Friday’ itself makes no sense.

A good life is lived every day, not just once a week.


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