We all have obligations. Some are to ourselves, some to others. Most are justified, and some are not. Our opinions on these obligations change with the ebb and flow of our emotions and in the face of other obligations that may compete.
I’m prompted to write about this because at 7.15 this morning, my son woke me up as he was crying for food. I should have been a good father and whisked him away for a nappy change and got him ready for my wife to feed him, but instead I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.
It’s not that I had a written obligation to be a good father and husband (although Lisa might disagree with me on that) – simply that I have a moral obligation, a contract with myself, to be there for them both. I hold myself to high standards, and some times those standards slip. I regularly berate myself for not holding up those high standards, but in a lot of ways those standards are entirely of my own making, and in trying to follow them all I end up in a quandary; the closest analogy I can use to illustrate this is the film Robocop 2, when he is given so many competing directives that he ends up incredibly constricted.
In addition to this I try to lower the expectations of the obligations others have to me. As another example, after rolling over this morning, I decided to check my feeds to see if anything new and interesting had sprung up on the internet. Unfortunately I couldn’t as feedly.com was down, but instead of setting my phone to one side I became distinctly unhappy that a service that I pay nothing for was not available to me the moment I wanted it. That’s an example of an obligation I perceived to be held by others for the benefit of their ‘customers’ (i.e. me, and other entitled types like me), but of course was not quite the case. Well, at least my expectation of a faultless delivery of that obligation was unreasonable.
In a way we balance a series of these all day, every day. I have an obligation to go to work and perform to the best of my abilities. Several outcomes hinge on how important I consider that obligation to be – not least my continued employment. When I take into account the obligations I place on myself to perform on the projects I set myself, however, things change quite dramatically.
I’ve set my expectation that I will write 500 words a day, and the further into this I get, the stronger the perception of that obligation becomes. I imagine dire consequences should I miss a day. But, I also have five other projects I want to progress on, and they all have different sets of competing obligations, which shift as my mood for doing them changes.
Piece by piece I hope to get them all done. There’s a crucial point to consider in this, and that is thatno-one else knows or cares about them. All obligation to deliver on these projects is a contract between myself and myself, and I’m remarkably adept at letting myself down.
All of this is to say that I am not quite as happy with my project performance as I could be, and so I will be putting aside some time this afternoon to rectify that.