Monday, March 17, 2008

Never Take on More than You can Handle

I believe it was Oprah Winfrey whom I first heard coin the phrase, “having the disease to please”. We could stereotype women as the ones who are plagued with this disease, but I think that would be unfair to all the men out there who are struggling to climb the corporate ladder, or to keep the peace on the factory front lines; the men who are trying to satisfy the needs of their growing families, and to save for their retirement; the men who are paying for two ex-wives, kids they never get to see, while trying to move on with their own shattered lives. You see, I don’t believe for a moment that only women have the disease to please – it affects us all.

How does the disease to please manifest itself?
Ø We take on responsibilities that we don’t have time for, and won’t get paid for – not because we want to, but because we don’t want to look bad
Ø We come in early or work late to impress the boss – after all, that promotion wouldn’t hurt in bringing a little more money
Ø We accept invitations to events we really don’t want to go to, because we don’t know how to say no
Ø We donate money to causes we are not passionate about because a savvy telemarketer guilts us into it
Ø We give in to our kids even though we know we are spoiling them, and making it harder to say no the next time
Ø We bend over backwards for thankless clients who actually drain money from our businesses, leaving us no time for our loyal, money-making customers.

Need I say more? So how do we break out of the self-destructive patterns of taking on more than we can handle?

First – learn how to say NO. In my seminars, I often ask participants to purse their lips together with their fingers, and then very gently breathe out the word, “No” between the little space that forms. It’s always good for a laugh because people realize it’s that easy. Seriously – there is a way to say, “no” that will not make you seem like the bad guy – and once you get the hang of it, it will be pretty easy. Here’s the formula.

Acknowledge the request. Say, “Thank you for asking me to…” or “I’m honored that you thought of me or trusted me enough to ask me to do this…”

Respectfully decline. Continue with, “…however, I must decline at this time.” You don’t need to give 100 excuses – in fact the more excuses you give, the more insincere your reply will sound.

Offer alternative solutions. Offer to do the task or take on the project at another time. Or barter your time and resources: “Perhaps if you could help me to complete this project I’m working on right now, then that will free me up to be available to help you move on Saturday.” You can also suggest that elements of the task be delegated to several people, thereby lightening the load for all, and creating a team solution to an existing challenge. By offering alternative solutions, you demonstrate your willingness to help, while releasing yourself from having to shoulder the task yourself.

Secondly, take a little time everyday to evaluate what you are doing that sucks your energy, and what juices your energy. I am learning that there are certain things I do or thoughts I think that will literally suck my energy to the point that I cannot be creative, I can’t pick up the phone to make follow-up calls or sales, and I certainly can’t be effective from the front of the room. By making a concsious effort to eliminate those behaviours or thoughts from my daily routine, I can become more energized and thereby more effective throughout each work day – even if all I have is a couple of hours in which to get stuff done.

There are certain tasks that we must do throughout the course of a day that are not energy boosting. For example, checking E-mail has long been perceived as an energy drainer. And that can be true, except for those times when you get an email from a friend that you haven’t seen in years, or you get a message from PayPal saying that your grandmother’s sewing machine just sold for three times what you were expecting on that Ebay auction. The same can be said of driving. I for one, do a lot of driving, and there are times that driving boosts my energy, and other times when it sucks the life right out of me.

What makes the difference? Our perception of the current situation, and our response to it. When I am driving with other people in my car, I cannot always listen to my favourite kind of music, or to my motivational/educational audio programs. These types of stimuli work in favour of boosting my energy. But when I have to entertain the likes/dislikes of my passengers, sometimes I end up listening to stuff that sucks my energy, or listening to nothing at all. That turns my driving experience into a dull, boring experience that I can’t wait to get out of. E-Mail is no fun when all I’m getting is spam and Viagara ads. What juices me, are E-Mails that tell me I’ve made a sale, or that a company has just placed a bulk order for my books or training materials, or when I hear from a dear friend who just sent a note to say, “I’m thinking of you.”

What we need to do then, is to look at the things we can and can’t control. We can’t control (beyond having spam blockers) how many Viagara E-Mails we receive, but we can treasure the ones that juice our energy. We can control how often we check our E-Mail accounts, and we can most certainly encourage the transmission of more of the messages we like, right? With driving, we can make agreements with our passengers that we are in the middle of something and would like to listen further – perhaps they would like to listen too… Or – we could agree to turn off all radio devices, MP3 players, and CD players, and just talk with each other to make the driving experience more memorable and enjoyable. In any case, rather than doing what you think others expect of you, why not express what you want and need in order to have a pleasurable experience in each situation, and work it out with the others involved?

Just the other day, I heard Ricky Nelson’s song, “Garden Party” on the radio. I hadn’t heard it in years, but the lyrics struck me just as they always have… “I’ve learned my lesson well – you see you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” Having the disease to please hurts you as well as the people around you, because you cannot be your true authentic self while you are trying to transform yourself into what you think others want. Even the chameleon has to be true to itself every once and awhile; you can’t tell me that the chameleon spends so much time changing that he forgets what he is at his core. We human beings owe it to ourselves to be true to who we are at our core… and to find ourselves pleasing. When you learn to be pleasing to yourself, and find a way to strike a balance between pleasing yourself and others, you will find your stress levels begin to decrease as you stay true to your authentic self.