On Monday, I promised you that there was more to be said on the topic du jour, and promised we’d pick it up again later in the week. I made that commitment to you, in writing. So, I guess that means there’s no getting out of it.
Not that I’d want to. I like writing this blog, which is why I created it, and I choose the topics. But still, I also know…I promised.
Commitments are tough like that, right? Once you make them, you’re locked in. Unless you’re flaky. I mean, not that YOU are flaky, but people who bail on commitments are…well…not you.
Except sometimes life happens and circumstances beyond your control take over, or you get overloaded, and things slip through the cracks. Sometimes you’re so busy, you can’t believe there was any space for them to find to slip through, but they do.
The particular type of stress that results from feeling overloaded is rough. We’ve talked about it here before (with tips and strategies for managing it!). It feels like being underwater. Essentially, it feels like you can’t breathe.
But you can. You know that by now. You can always breathe. Even just one inhale, one exhale. There is always space, but to find it, you have to slow down. Take one minute to just breathe, and that minute will feel like five minutes. If you feel like you need time to slow down, first do it for yourself. Seems counterintuitive, I know, but it’s true.
The other question that’s begging here is how you ended up so swamped in the first place. Or maybe the real question is, how good are you with the word “no”?
And “No, I’m not too busy, of course I can help you with that” doesn’t count. Nice try, though.
Saying no is really hard when you’re 1) someone who likes to make other people happy, 2) someone who believes opportunities are rare and valuable, 3) someone who likes challenges, or all of the above. In the MBA world, that final category describes a lot of us. Hard to turn anything down when it feels like any one thing could be a game-changer, right?
Yeah, that’s one of those ideas that works in theory but not in practice. Like some of the things you learn in class. It’s ok, theories are nice, BUT when it comes to your time, which is the same thing as your life, you have to do better. You need to be able to say “non, merci.” Or, some variation on that theme.
Determining the commitments that are worth your time is a personal choice, but I’ll tell you what can help you with that. Yup. Intuition. Presence. Focus. Basically, mindfulness. We chose to spend some of our moments engaged in mindfulness practices because they help develop our ability to recognize how we respond to stimuli. These stimuli include everything from events and conversations, to ideas, and…invitations. Requests for your time. Proposals for slices of your energy.
The next time you get an invitation to add something to your calendar, make your very next second about registering how it makes you feel. Not what you think about it, but what your internal physical response was to it. Did it make you feel lighter? Brighter? More energized? Or did you shift backwards, taking your aching head with you?
If an opportunity makes your energy drop, it isn’t for you. It is for someone else, so don’t go clinging to it just because it’s there. Let it go, if you can. If you can’t, think about how you might make other decisions about your life that get you to a place where you can eventually say no to it.
We’ve all heard so much lately about people living their “year of yes,” and taking in every new experience they encounter. Sounds fun. Interesting that they usually don’t turn it into two “years of yes,” though, isn’t it? Probably just because that second year would be “year of burnout.”
On that note, don’t NOT do something new just because it scares you. Just don’t do it because you’re scared not to.
Your time is your life. Spend it in ways that are meaningful to you, not meaningful in general or to other people. Walk that path, one decision at a time, and you will soon find that your purpose was waiting for you there all along.
Photo credit: Lechon Kirb