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When Too Much Is a Good Thing

In the word ‘fix’ I sensed the omnipresent cultural expectation to achieve. Can’t it just be enough to get out of bed to find joy in the everyday business of living?

The impact books have on our lives is not limited to the words written between the covers. Some books inspire new thoughts and send us to unexpected places. Follow me Down the Rabbit Hole in this recurring segment.

I love optimizing time, among other things. For me it’s not so much about productivity and fitting more things into a day. I confess, plenty of my time is spent daydreaming rather than in more conventionally industrious ways. No, for me time optimization is more about the process of executing a task while achieving a pleasing balance between speed, precision, and symmetry. It’s about the miniscule moment of joy that accompanies a job well done. At the risk of sounding “a little bit much,” I do things like load the dishwasher in such a way that unloading it can be achieved in record time with minimal steps.

Don’t fear if you’re visiting me for dinner. It’s not really about the unloading or even the ‘right way’ of doing things—it’s about the puzzle presented by those particular dishes in that particular dishwasher. I’ll take help with clean-up over solving the puzzle any day.

This ‘muchness’ of mine has sometimes been labelled ambition. I ambitiously undertake even routine tasks to fulfill a deeply engrained desire to do my best.

Considering my penchant for time management (if it can be called that), when Book Interrupted’s fan Lindsay chose the book The 4% Fix: How One Hour Can Change Your Life by Karma Brown, I was optimistic there would be something in there for me. Turns out the book is perhaps more about ambition than about schedules. It speaks directly to those that crave fulfillment, and whose current schedules don’t work for their personal goals. It’s in the name, I guess. If you feel broken, here’s a way to fix it.

That’s what the self-help industry is all about, isn’t it? There are plenty of people who want advice on how to do more, feel happier, and live differently. If someone finds fulfillment along the way, I’m all for it.

Still, something about the word ‘fix’ didn’t sit well with me.

Perhaps it’s our culture’s obsession with productivity, the constant push to generate rather than just exist. To build something measurable, rather than find satisfaction in the intangible. Likewise, ambition is presented as something to achieve rather than a way to live one’s life. And yet, just like motivation, ambition can be both extrinsic or intrinsic. In a data driven world, the former is often in the spotlight because it is measurable. And more dangerously, it is comparable. The grass is greener, and all that. Yet, it is the intrinsic and personal values-based ambition with its inherent rewards that contributes positively to psychological well-being.

In the word ‘fix’ I sensed the omnipresent cultural expectation to achieve. Can’t it just be enough to get out of bed to find joy in the everyday business of living?

Image by Armand Khoury on Shutterstock

When I got down to it, this book didn’t really come to me at the right time. I didn’t feel like I needed to fix anything. If fact, I’ve been on a different road, trying to do less, not more. Scheduling less, consuming less, producing less, in the material sense, anyway. I’m trying to spend less time on measurable goals to make more room for the intangible. While Brown does include these kinds of soft goals in the book, the process itself creates a bit of a paradox. Once distilled down to an achievable goal, they cease being abstract and transform into just another item on the “To Do” list. Is it possible to enjoy the journey when you’re focussed on the map?

There are less visible modes of achievement that cannot always be articulated. Or even recognized from the outside looking in. Much like the previous post about regrets, it all comes down to individual values. Personally, I think fulfillment comes from within.

This brings us back to iterative optimization process behind my motivation. I normally shy away from the word ambitious because it’s often associated with ruthless pursuit of material wealth.

No more!

There’s no denying I am ambitious. Lucky for me, being “a little bit much” is worth getting out of bed for every morning, even if I can’t explain what it achieves.

What motivates you? Do you also feel cultural pressure to achieve? What small everyday things bring you joy?

We’d love to hear from you. Comment below, email us, or connect with us on Instagram. Your comment could be featured at the end of each book cycle during our fan episode.

Book Interrupted is running a contest. Enter from November 5th to November 27th, 2021 for your chance to win the most advanced Amazon Kindle available. Go to to learn more.

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