Recently I’ve got caught up in the habit of over-engineering my life. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to be the most productive.

How can I make the best use of my time, what systems can I use to get things done faster, better, more efficiently? What can I do to stop procrastinating and start taking action? All of these are very valid questions and each of them has some merit to them.

But how often do we over-think things, over-analyze, and over-everything. Evaluation can be a great tool, it can help us figure out where our time is going and what things we need to change to make better use of our time. But I’d like to suggest a different approach.

Instead of looking at things from an outside-in approach. Instead of trying to tool and engineer our lives to yield a greater benefit, I think we can yield a much greater benefit by using an inside-out approach.

If we use our heart as our compass, and our conscience as our guide (jiminy cricket anyone?) we will naturally become motivated. If we find out what our passions are and strive to work towards a more heart-centered and emotionally fulfilling goal, the outer system will take care of itself. We won’t need productivity systems and widgets to accomplish our goals, because we will be internally driven.

How else can we apply this inside-out approach to accomplishing our goals?

Well the outside-in approach would tell you to gain more resources, more money, connections, assets, etc. This is a backward approach.

If we are constantly working on gaining more outer resources before we move to take action, we are neglecting the very source from which these resources will be gained. That source of course is our inner resources. These are our knowledge, our skills, principles, values, emotional balance, creativity, and social skills.

When we shift our focus to developing our inner resources there may be some downtime before we see the pay-off in acquisition of outer resources. It may take some time to develop greater skills and competencies. But now we’re working toward long-term secure gains instead of short high-risk payoffs.

Not only does shifting our focus from an outside-in to an inside-out approach yield us greater long term resources and security, it also has some bonus side effects. When we develop our inner resources we become more confident, self-aware, and gain inner security. We know that no matter what happens to our external circumstances, we can always fall back on our internal resources. We also realize that what is inside is more important then what is on the outside. Because of this we become more centered.

Take a look at your life, in what areas are do you have an imbalance? Are you waiting for all the right circumstances and resources before you take action?
Or do you rely on your internal resources, your personal competencies and strengths to create the circumstances that you desire? Perhaps the real lesson is that the more we take action in our lives, the more we stretch and build those internal strengths, the more power we gain in our lives.

The more we take control of our lives instead of surrendering to whatever happens to us, the more power we gain over our lives and the more freedom we find.

We realize that the freedom was with us all along, not to be found somewhere outside of us, but within.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Clay Collins | The Growing Life March 28, 2008 at 8:13 am

I like the distinction between inside-out and outside-in thinking.


Kelly@SHE-POWER March 28, 2008 at 8:46 am


Just my 10 cents worth. Love your blog by the way. Think I’ve just been lurking so far.
:) Kelly


Kelly@SHE-POWER March 28, 2008 at 8:48 am


I agree whole heartedly with the inside-out approach to achieving our goals. For years I lived my life outside-in, not in the sense that I was chasing materialism or other people’s dreams, but I was stuck on the idea that I had to find out who I was and what I wanted, and I had to make it happen now, now now!

Having my son really clashed with this lifestyle and this ended up being a great thing for me because eventually I had to admit I couldn’t keep up the same pace as before, and all this chasing of goals wasn’t making me happy anyway. Not like cuddles on the sofa with my son.

I came to see that I had spent the past 18 years regimenting my life to achieve something down the track. There was not enough joy and gratitude for the simple things in life.

Doing more is not all that life is about. And getting too caught up with productivity systems can turn into just another treadmill of action all designed to get you somewhere one day, rather than just enjoying where you are now.

I’m not saying goals or action is a bad thing, but it’s not the only thing, especially if you want to feel happy and content today. We need down time too so there’s a lot to be said for learning how to just BE instead of DO. Then when you are taking action to reach your goals, it will be with a vigour you previously were incapable of.

Just my 10 cents worth. Love your blog by the way. I think I’ve only been lurking so far.
:) Kelly


Alex Blackwell March 28, 2008 at 12:00 pm

All great points Jonathan! Even though it may not always feel like it, we are in control of our lives. At the end of the day, it is our choice if we live the way our hearts tell us.


Charlie Gilkey March 28, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Great post, Jonathan. I wholeheartedly agree that we must shift from external resources to internal resources; sustainable drive comes from within.

Weaning oneself off of productivity systems is a tricky business during this switch. Unless you have the luxury or ability to freeze-frame life to make the switch, there’s till going to be the need to take care of external stuff as your building your internal reserves. That’s the conflict that I’m in now, at any point: the fire from within is fully burning, but the residue of the old external life is still pressing.

Keep up the great work!


Amy March 28, 2008 at 3:48 pm


You have hit on a very important premise about reaching your dreams, desires and goals in life, ultimately finding joy and fulfillment.

I have discovered the very same things in my life…the importance of working from inner resources, instead of depending on the outer resources.

For two years, I have struggled with getting my writing career off the ground…investing in all the key components that all the top internet marketers, writers, speakers, coaches are touting on the web. In the end, I have tons of DVD’s, CD’s, books connections that I have little time to look at, let alone use. Let’s not even talk about the time to actually write my book or blog…do what my heart truly loves and wants to do.

It was after a weekend long intense bootcamp on branding and writing where a top writer and speaker took my ideas and totally reworked everything to the point that I didn’t recognize it that I realized I had to stop accumulating outside resources. The Monday following this intense weekend I woke up so angry…enraged…I tried to work on the “new plan” she had devised for me…I HATED IT! The more I worked…the more I got angry and realized that I would NEVER be able to continue on this path…it was someone elses created plan for me…it was coming from the outside-in…not from my inner desires, talents and gifts…I knew it was doomed to fail…I would procrastinate, become distracted…it would become “work”…not a joy or passion of my life. I immediately went back to what my gut and my heart was telling me to do. I stopped buying every product that came down the pike and chose one of the programs I already had that would help me the most. I chose to work from my passion and what God was leading me to do, instead of outside formulas that had worked for everyone else.

Now,don’t misunderstand…I haven’t thrown all the advice, ideas and plans in the toilet…by no means…I have carefully picked and chosen tidbits here and there…added or continued the one’s that work…temporarily put some on the shelf for when I need them…subtracted the one’s that don’t fit my way of getting things done.

It is a process…an adventure…it helps me grow.

The bottom line is that when you work from your inner resources…the one’s that God placed in you from the beginning, instead of being influenced by all the outer resources…it is in that moment you will discover everything clicks, falls in to place…it works!

Thank you for this blog post…it was extremely affirming.


Andrea Hess|Empowered Soul March 28, 2008 at 10:57 pm

Great post! Truly, we all need to learn to trust our inner wisdom a lot more. Our true creativity, our true purpose is only found on the inside.

I don’t do goal-setting and I don’t have a to-do list. I get unbelievable amounts of stuff done, because I love what I do. Motivation comes from the inside, and if that motivation isn’t there … well … we may be trying to apply ourselves in a “reasonable” way rather than following our hearts.



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