Question: I’m a bit obsessive about some things and it’s causing a bit of friction in my life. How do I know what to be obsessive about?
Answer: I’m certainly an expert on this subject, so you’ve come to the right source. I’m a neat freak; my wife – not so much. In the past that’s driven me nuts. Suits hang in my closet in a certain order; the crease of a napkin always faces the outside; the trash can in the bathroom sits inside a specific floor tile – you get the picture? When it comes to being obsessive-compulsive, I get the grand prize every time.
A number of famous people have various obsessions. Donald Trump refuses to shake hands because of his germ phobia. Cameron Diaz constantly rubs doorknobs to get rid of germs. Justin Timberlake likes to line objects up perfectly. David Beckham and Jessica Alba are obsessive about cleanliness and tidiness.
What I’ve had to learn is how my idiosyncrasies affect others as well as their impact upon my own productivity. Is anyone being hurt by my obsessions? Am I resentful that others don’t conform to my fastidious nature? Trying to convince my wife that she should be in my league when it came to neatness was a fantasy and unreasonable. It finally dawned on me that my constant harping was just causing strife and wasn’t solving the problem. So we hired someone to clean our house to the point that it’s acceptable to me, and I built her an office where she can pile up her stuff to her heart’s content. I’m pleased to report that these compromises have worked.
To resolve my OCD I now ask myself, “Is there a legitimate purpose served with my metaphorical ‘straightening of paperclips’?” For example I’m known for despising the sight of cigarette butts outside the entrances to our apartment communities as well as dirty elevator tracks. Yes, this is an obsession but one I believe to be healthy. After all, the crisp and clean appearance of our properties is important in attracting new residents and retaining existing ones. Verdict – legitimate purpose for this obsession. Here’s another example. I refuse to send e-mails and even text messages with typos and grammatical errors. This seems to fly in the face of the way society communicates today. But for me there are several things in play. I take great pride in using the English language correctly. I also want to send a message to my colleagues, clients and partners that I am exacting and precise. These are qualities that I believe to be important in my line of work. Verdict – legitimate purpose once again.
Life for some of us is symmetrical and for others it’s abstract. Either works. If we lean toward perfect alignment, we need to do so in moderation. While our obsessions may bring a sense of order, they can be destructive if they offend others and no legitimate purpose is served.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.