“I’m too busy to get anything done,” she lamented as she continued her description of the frustrations she was experiencing in her role as a newly promoted manager.
“It feels like I am being pulled in a million different directions, each one equally important with the most recent always the most urgent.
“My boss is piling up the work she needs done now, my employees are downloading all their problems onto me and my peers seem to need my input on every decision.
“My husband demands to see ID each time I walk through the door and, when I am home, my kids keep pulling me in one direction while pushing me in another.
“I keep looking at my ‘To Do’ list and all I see is a ‘Not Done’ list and I wonder if I will ever get caught up. I’m so tired I can’t sleep and so stressed that I feel like choking the next person who looks at me.”
“Sounds serious, I acknowledged, sliding a little further away from her in the booth we were sitting in at the local coffee haunt.
I asked a stupid question, “Why do you think this is happening?”
And she told me. She explained that she had no choice other than to try and please everyone. That people all around her were pulling her in different directions and that she felt powerless to do anything to stop this insanity.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Have you, at times, felt that you had relinquished all control over your life to family, friends, colleagues and strangers and that you were merely a puppet, reacting to the way in which your strings were being pulled?
If your answer is “No, never, not me. I’d never allow such a thing to happen to me,” then congratulate yourself for you fall into a select and highly envied group that represents 0.000000000000000000000003% of the population.
If, on the other hand you feel like she is describing your life then let’s look at some of the reasons why this is happening to you, the degree to which you are complicit in perpetuating these situations and then let’s examine a few possible life saving solutions.
It is helpful to begin by remembering that cemeteries are full of people whose early deaths were caused by trying to please everyone.
Another old axiom that I have long believed to be true exhorts us to understand that “people always treat us the way we train them to treat us.”
In other words we truly play a significant role in our own distress by the manner in which we respond to requests/demands from others for us to do stuff.
And each time we say yes we are giving the requesters exactly what they want and, by so doing, are substantially increasing the probability that they will ask again and again and again and again.
Why is it that for so many of us the most difficult task in the whole world is to say that teeny little two letter word that effortlessly flows off our tongues until we really, really need to use it and then it somehow gets stuck in our throats and by the time we force it out it sounds something like “yes.”
You know the word I’m referring to?
And the strange irony is that each time we don’t say No when we want to say NO we really are saying No.
Think about it.
Each time we say YES to someone and that causes us to set aside something we want to get done, we are saying NO to ourselves.
Each time we say YES to solving someone else’s problem that they could/should deal with themselves we are saying NO to providing them an opportunity for self growth and development.
Each time we say YES to doing something we really don’t want to do, but feel we have to, we are saying NO to our own happiness and contentment.
I’m not making a case for living a life of selfishness; I’m merely trying to explain the consequences of our own actions.
I’m not suggesting our automatic response to every request henceforth become NO.
I’m suggesting we recognize that YES and NO are choices and that we develop strategies that assist us in making the choices we want to make, not those we feel compelled to make.
And there is a way to lighten this load.
There is only one cause of conflict on the entire planet.
Only one thing causes conflict.
Conflict occurs when expectations aren’t met. Period.
And we seldom take the time to discuss, explain and negotiate expectations with those around us.
So imagine how our loads may be lightened and our lives made happier if we could mutually reach understanding of what to expect with those folks who presently are pouring stress into our souls.
And perhaps their loads may be lightened too.
Remember they can’t do it without our compliance. They treat us the way we have trained them to treat us.
And we treat them the way they have trained us.
So if we could garner their cooperation in establishing a shared understanding and agreement as to what, and when, we can and will do stuff for each other, and we all agree that when we do say NO it is not rejection of the person but rather a rating of the importance of the task requested, then maybe, just maybe, we could all get more done, in less time, with less anxiety.
We have spent many postings discussing why we do what we do. I’m sure you all remember what that is, don’t you?
We only ever do one thing – we do what is most important to us in the moment.
And importance is determined by what give us pleasure or helps us avoid pain.
So it becomes vitally important to making saying NO a lot less painful than saying YES when we truly feel the need to do so.
And setting agreed upon expectations almost eliminates the need to say No and takes almost all the sting out of NO when we do.
So will you please go out and buy my book Life Sinks or Soars – the choice is yours right now.
I won’t take No for an answer.
Till we read again.