2 min read

Start With a Flashlight, but Bring a Hammer

Instead of assuming that one factor led to a certain result, use the flashlight to gain the perspective needed to make an honest evaluation of what happened and how to improve moving forward.
Start With a Flashlight, but Bring a Hammer

As much as I'd like to believe I've learned something in almost four years of home ownership, this article will not be about building anything, or fixing anything, per se. It will be about tools...just not the physical kind.

Often when we do something we wish we hadn't, or we act against our own best interests, we reach for our (metaphorical) hammer.

"How stupid! Why would I do that again? I always do this."

As you might imagine, building a habit of reaching for a hammer does not prove useful or supportive in the long run.

Instead, we want to practice reaching for a flashlight. A flashlight illuminates. It makes brighter what's already visible and obvious, but also sheds light to anything we may not be readily considering. The flashlight allows us to view the scope of what's happening from a distance and enables us to make tweaks to what might need tweaking.

For example, in excitement to help launch a large work project today, I worked up until the last moment I could last night, straight up until my digital sunset at 8pm. (Laughing that I still made it in bed just after 9 😁 )

Often when I work too late, I wake in the middle of the night and don't manage to fall back asleep. In evaluating what happened and where things went awry, I reached for my flashlight.

The flashlight revealed that I didn't allow myself to wind down properly or for long enough. I also noticed that I was too "on" for too much of the day yesterday — I didn't properly oscillate. I drank too much water too late (which may influence why I woke up when I did), and I didn't thoroughly end my day via a shutdown complete ritual.

The flashlight is a fantastic tool to reach for first — make a habit of it. Instead of assuming that one factor led to a certain result, use the flashlight to gain the perspective needed to make an honest evaluation of what happened and how to improve moving forward.

But here's the thing, we still need our hammer.

In creating this habit of reaching for a flashlight, and of bringing curiosity to whatever has happened (both tremendous things to start with), I forgot that sometimes you do need a hammer — especially when your flashlight keeps revealing the same things.

I was hopeful that I could work as I did yesterday while still having a great night of sleep. But as I've learned time and time  again, that is not the case. I've brought a flashlight to this result many times, now it's time for the hammer. I'm done.

I'll either do whatever I need to to allow myself more time to wind down after an exciting day of work, or I'll consciously decide to work later and harder, knowing it will affect my sleep — and not hopefully pretending it won't.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of bringing a flashlight with you wherever you go and reaching for it first. You likely won't even need to carry your hammer around for quite a while if you're not used to carrying a flashlight. However, once you've built the habit of honestly evaluating yourself and your actions through an unbiased, clarifying light — know this: you sometimes need a hammer.