Top 10 Steps to A Happy Gerbil

  • Read The New Yorker to him/her before bedtime (especialluy if their mother was Ivy League).
  • Give them daily mini-back rubs.
  • Feed them only organic seeds, and provide only carbon-filtered, osmosis-treated water.
  • Make them…

Okay, you’ve seen through my ruse. This list is not real, yet we’re so magnetically pulled to lists like this because a) we can read them quickly, and b) they’re enablers to our self-assessment that we’re too “busy/important/in-demand” to take time to read, think, and consider… then conclude with our own answers.

Are you compelled to read further when you see a headline like this post’s title? Do you eagerly open it thinking a magic elixir resides within those ten, tightly written lines of wordsmithery?

Hard to resist reading or writing them, especially since the masses seem to want spoon-fed content. But I truly detest this approach to thinking, i.e., someone else does it for me and I get fed the "answers.” I have a growing concern about the decline in presence and quality of critical thinking that will exist in the world 10 or 20 years from now and what that will mean to society and intellectual life.

Don’t get me wrong: I like lists… when I’m needing to remember steps, next actions, or elements of a project. I write them every day and too-frequently give equal attention to ignoring them. Lists are like paint samples: many options, but never really know how well one works until you paint the whole wall.

The point of this post is simple:  for staying on track with your project or effort, there’s only one ultimate prompt you need to remember:

Does this [task, effort, purchase, choice, etc.] take me closer or farther from my goal?

Your answer tells you whether it’s worth the time and effort to continue or not. If you do nothing else in the way of list-making or following, keep this one rule handle and use repeatedly:  it will get you closer to success than any “Top Ten Ways…” list you’ll read.

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