I have struggled for a long while with the clashing of two very strong ideals I have for myself, long instilled in me and dating back to childhood, which actually contradict themselves once life becomes super complex and full of competing priorities. (If you are not an overachiever, this may never get to be a problem for you.)
I am an overachiever, motivated by achievement and driven to high performance. Meaning I take pride in the mere accomplishment of something. I am also a perfectionist – not in the sense that I can only do a thing if I do it perfectly, but rather in the sense that I have to strive for perfection in all I do. Short version: Half-ass is not acceptable, and neither is saying no to things.
What I’ve come to know about myself in the last three years of being stretched to the max in all arenas of life is: I can do anything I want, but I can’t do everything.
These are pretty words… truly meant for a needlepoint to hang on a wall or an inspirational poster. But if you’re like me, how the HELL do you reconcile this idea with the reality of being driven to do it all and kill yourself trying to to it all well all while not disappointing those around you?
Here’s what works for me:
- Give yourself permission to pick the things that are most important
- Manage expectations of others to eliminate guilt and resentment
These are two sides of the same coin. First the mind shift inside yourself, and then the external manifestation that others will see. For me, the internal shift took the longest – all wrapped up in the struggle of saying No when faced with new things or making commitments.
Here’s my secret weapon…
I only say yes IF:
- No one else can do it
- The consequences of not doing it means derailing my goals
- It means saying no to things I’m okay not doing
The first one is a serious game changer. I never thought I would be so efficient at delegating but there are so many things that I now can say no to automatically if someone else could do what is being asked. I also realized that I was saying yes to things that were inherently someone else’s responsibility if I feared that they wouldn’t do something the way I would, or I feared their dependability was lacking. Guess what, turns out that neither of those things reflects on me ever except in the arena of me being stressed and overworked doing things other people should be doing.
The second two are where it gets down to nitty gritty, when it is serious-level prioritization. They also help to clearly articulate for myself what my priorities are. Which is super important for the other side of the coin… other people’s expectations.
I learned the last couple of years that as long as you are up front and honest about your intentions, and what you are and aren’t committing to do with the people in your life, even saying no can work. It much easier to let someone down by saying straight out that you can’t do something. When the commitments you make are so closely aligned with your intentions or what your own success looks like, it is much easier to lay it out straight.
I am living proof. No rolls off the tongue as effortlessly as Yes once did. It is often easier if you can articulate the why behind your no if it is particularly sensitive, but in the end you don’t owe that to anyone either.
If you are steering your ship toward what you want for your life, no one else’s disappointments need to weigh on you enough to change course. Your goals… your dreams… your intentions for what a successful and fulfilled life looks like… are all up to you and no one else. Don’t feel guilt for having dreams and goals and doing (or not doing) whatever it takes to get them. You are worth it and you deserve to make those dreams and goals come true.