Debra Swersky
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Competing Priorities

Work for me has always come first. Like vegetables and dessert, I could only play if my work was completed. Good thing is that I love vegetables! For my entire professional life I’ve lived in the fast-paced world where immediacy and speed-to-response have always been valued. So, I deliver… immediately. For me that has always been the fastest route to dessert. (Enterprising Energy… remember?) But this week, after the launch of Phase 2, and the pending launch of Phase 3, I realized that I needed to eat dessert before all of my vegetables were done – aww shucks. We’re moving to Dallas and therefore, I found my work and life priorities in competition. I’m super excited to move my life and headspace and have to put my work on hold to make that new life a reality. We’re in the process of finding a living situation, getting a car, checking out the town, etc. 

But, this means going against everything that I’ve known and holding off on immediate delivery. I can’t focus on moving my life and nailing a proposal or presentation at the same time. A friend of mine reminded me that my upcoming move was not something to be taken lightly and that my work would always be there. Though reluctant to believe her I was reminded of the marshmallow experiment

If you’re not familiar with the experiment, it’s where a kid is asked to sit in a room with a marshmallow, or Oreo, or pretzel (their choice)… but not eat it for a designated period of time. If they can sit in the room with the marshmallow, without eating it, they will be given another marshmallow when the researcher comes back and then can eat two. But if they eat it, they only get the one that they’ve eaten. The study is meant to illustrate the idea of resisting temptation with the hopes of future rewards. The study proved that the kids who delayed in eating the marshmallow were more competent later in life. Crazy… yet an important finding.

How does my life remind me of the marshmallow experiment? Well, I’m hypothesizing that if I resist the temptation to work on the proposals and presentations that I’m excited to deliver on (my one marshmallow), and instead focus on moving and setting my new life up right, I could be more successful in my delivery when I officially move (and receive more marshallows). Which, of course, makes me wonder how I would have acted as a child if I were left alone in a room with a marshmallow.

So the lesson for me is less about the competition of priorities, but more about prioritizing the priorities in competition… and hoping that my resistance and increased focus will deliver many, many, more marshmallows.

Debra Swersky