It is rather funny the habits we pick up along life’s journey, especially the ones that become less relevant at a different stage in life.
For me, it is the need to explain… to justify… to contextualize… to rationalize.
It is an impulse with very deep roots that I find somewhat challenging to reprogram.
Over the span of my 33 year career, many of our day-to-day transactions needed to be supported by a business case and more often than not, a justification. Frankly, I didn’t mind too much, as justifications seemed, for lack of a better word, “justified” in the business world.
That being the case, in learning to write for the public sector, the development of well crafted, logical justifications was a recurring task. It was the way to bring an issue to senior management and to seek approval to proceed with a proposed solution. And, might I say, what a great learning opportunity for an aspiring writer!
When I received confirmation that a business case or a justification I wrote (or co-wrote) was approved, it always took me back to childhood. It felt just like it did when I received a gold star on my report card.
To see an idea come to fruition was always so gratifying.
Even outside of the office, if I encountered a problem, I called upon these skills for writing letters or emails to try to reach an amicable resolution. It wouldn’t need to be as thoroughly documented as it would at the office, but an analysis of a situation, a proposed course of action and a justification were often necessary, especially if I needed to call upon expert assistance.
I never really minded writing such documents, as the process truly helped shape my writing skills overall. Maybe it’s just me, but I could easily see the creative process in even the most business-like of documents.
If we turn the clock back a few years, in university, essays often required a logical, thoughtful flow to take the reader from introduction to conclusion, with clear, value-added arguments made in the middle.
Let’s not forget group projects sometimes involved delicately disagreeing with colleagues and respectfully offering facts and figures to explain why I might oppose a view.
Doesn’t it go back even further to primary school math class when teachers told us to “show our work” on how we arrived at our answers to math problems.
Wow! That was almost 50 years ago… no wonder justifications can be a hard habit to break.
But in retirement, I am discovering that common sayings like “please pass the butter” or “please pass the salt” can be taken at face value without hours of thought to explain why. Let’s face it, dinner would be cold by the time I’d finish my rationale.
Similarly, if I decided to take a day for myself to read or binge watch something, it doesn’t really need to be supported by a detailed impact assessment.
If I think we need to buy a gardening tool, it rarely requires more than a passing mention at the dinner table (while passing the butter or the salt).
Gone are the days of multi-page business cases. What a relief!
But after so many years, I admit that there is still a bit of a lingering compulsion to explain. Just recently, I was offered an 8:00 a.m. appointment which I declined and asked if they had something available mid-morning.
While 8:00 would not be technically impossible, it is less disruptive (for me, my partner and even the cat) to take an appointment later in the morning. But for some reason, the compulsion to explain was alive and well.
What stopped me was the realization that in today’s world, people are busy. Plus, such a minor transaction doesn’t require 46 reasons why a mid-morning appointment makes life go more smoothly.
The challenge now is to fine tune the on and off switch for this skill that has served me so well in life.
Just the same, I realize that I can’t completely cast aside my justification skills. Some of that will still be needed for pursuing a writing career, and in occasional dealings with human nature.
Nonetheless, I welcome the fact that not everything I say or do needs to be backed up with a full justification, as it often did at the office. I now feel that I can finally relax and compartmentalize this skill for when life truly requires it.
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