25. When are you at your best?

When you’re newly married, as I happily am, people tend to ask “how’s married life?” or “is it different?” or various versions of those questions. On a practical level, the distinction between engaged and married is mostly ceremonial. My day-to-day has not been altered by being married. The fundamental difference that I can identify in myself is the time horizon on which I now think about things. Marriage has extended my time horizon significantly.

I offer that observation here as the backdrop to a broader question: “when are you at your best?” This was a question that I was asked late last week. It prompted me to think about myself and about the conditions in which I feel most effective. I believe I am at my best when:

  1. …I’m well rested. The day I realized how quickly my interpersonal skills were impacted by insufficient sleep was an important day. I have a tendency to be argumentative. I am less capable of curbing that tendency when I’m tired.
  2. …I feel like I’m doing a good job. I am definitely one of those people who gets a lot out of positive feedback. It energizes me. I work harder when I am confident that the work I’m doing is being well received. In turn, I tend to product better work. And so on. I feel this way about my professional and personal lives. As an aside, it has taken a lot of work to find ways to get positive feedback in the non-traditional work environment I’ve been in for a few years. Channels for positive feedback other than your boss patting you on the back do exist. I just had to find them.
  3. …I believe that my family will be proud of what I’m doing. This is fairly related to #2, but I think I can draw a distinction. The compounding confidence of doing a good job, working harder, doing a good job, working harder is one thing. Knowing at a fundamental level that you are behaving in a way that would make your spouse, parents, siblings, and close friends proud of you is more about principals, values and integrity than it is about any specific work product. This is what I think about when I go to sleep at night.

There are many other small factors that of course contribute to the feeling that I am at my best. But these are the most salient three. Or at least they have been so far. I am interested in what effect the extended time horizon of post-wedding life will have. It is a new feeling, so I think it would be too soon to say definitively that it helps me be my best. Thinking on a longer term basis, however, is something I sense may be very valuable. Doing big things requires a willingness to commit for more than one and two year periods.

Note to reader: This is day 25 of 92 in my commitment to write for 30 minutes each day from October 1 through the end of 2015.