Are you a light switch or a thermostat?

Are you a light switch or a thermostat?

A light switch has two settings: on or off. Frenetic or exhausted. Rich or broke. Everything or nothing. Worshipped or isolated. Bursting or starving.

A thermostat has levels: high, medium-high, medium, medium-low, low. Frenetic, energetic, relaxed, tired, exhausted. Rich, abundant, comfortable, scraping by, broke. Worshipped, admired, friendly, lonely, isolated. Bursting, full, satiated, hungry, starving.

Maybe you do it differently in different areas of your life. With money you might have two settings – say, BUY ALL THE THINGS and OMG DOOMFLAIL – but in your health you have a more nuanced outlook.

Or maybe, like me, you’re a light switch pretty much everywhere. (MADE OF PUDDING versus MOTHERFUCKING GOD OF EXERCISE, ferinstance.)

I’m assuming that being a light switch is bad for everyone. I certainly wish I wasn’t one, and am working on developing a more thermostat-ey approach. (If you think that being a light switch is actually awesomepants, please come explicate why in the comments.)

It’s definitely a bad idea in your business to only have two settings.

Take cash flow for example. When the switch is on you’re all, “Woo, never need work again! Time to chillax.” But then the light will turn itself off over time and suddenly you find yourself saying, “I have to sell sixty copies before Tuesday to pay the mortgage. Ohcrapohcrapohcrap.” And then you sell from desperation. And that never works well.

Desperation: the only scent that travels over the internet.

It is much preferable to have a sliding scale, one which does two vital things:

  1. Informs your actions.
  2. Tells you when to stop putting more energy in.

Imagine for a second: all of the areas in your biz and life are thermostat dials, from 1 (Terrible) to 5 (Mind-blowingly amazing) with 3 representing (Sufficient). All these dials are together in one place where you can see them and direct energy and attention to them together.

Suddenly you know a lot of things about your priorities.

  • You know that anything on 1 needs immediate attention and energy.
  • You know that anything on 2 should get energy next.
  • You know that anything on 3 is adequate, and you should be grateful, and give it at least enough energy to maintain it and make sure it doesn’t sneak on back to 2.
  • You know that anything on 4 is doing very well, and if you have no other urgent priorities you could put in a bit more energy to crank it up to 5.
  • You know that anything on 5 does not need any extra energy put into it. Also, confetti.

Isn’t it a beautiful system? I’m strongly considering getting out my craft stuff and making myself a physical version. It’d have dials for Self-care, and Clients, and Newsletter Subscribers, and Projects, and some others, too, I guess. (Not too many.)

Fuck it, I’m gonna go make this.

[EDIT: I made it! This is the photo - before it is calibrated with reality.]

This is my first thought on the things I most want to measure.

What dials would yours have? Tell me in the comments!

(All love and thanks to my coach Leela. This is her model.)

photo by: SeveStJude
  • Dawn

    I LOOOOOVE this model! I am a total thermostat, but I do believe that there should be one lightswitch function in my life … asleep/awake! Nothing worse than being half asleep all night and half awake all day. And you know I want to see a photo of this dial contraption. It should have glitter.

    • http://www.CashAndJoy.com Catherine Caine

      Glitter. Good point.

      That’s a fascinating insight, Dawn. I mean, it was only a few days ago that I was saying I need to get rid of that Sort Working, Sorta Resting state from my life. So clearly there’s at least one area that switches are neat!

  • Kristal

    Catherine, this is SUCH a cool idea! I totally want to make one for myself, too. I’m such a visual person – this would be brilliant. And yes, please post pictures of your thermostat when you make it!

    • http://www.CashAndJoy.com Catherine Caine

      It is made! Look at the photo above!