I used to think that it was just procrastination, but now I realize that the procrastination is merely a symptom. The real problem is that we are “should-ing” ourselves by agreeing to do things that are just not that meaningful to us – and we rebel by not doing them.
Actions speak louder than words. Whether it’s scheduling time to meet an old friend for coffee or finishing up a lengthy research project or even letting go of a relationship that has gone sour, what we spent our time doing is a reflection of our true priorities.
We are living in an age of fantastic opportunities with dozens of ideas, requests and interests that compete for our attention. Life is no longer a simple choice between “A” or “B.”
Combine that with our Western preference for linear thinking and Judeo-Christian guilt, a “simple” decision is burdened with a series of nagging questions: Is this the best use of my time right now – or should I be doing something else? Am I giving too much? Is this a waste of my time? And (my favorite) what will other people think of me if I do what I really want instead?
I see the stress of these endless choices in myself, my friends and my colleagues. We’re taking on more responsibilities than any human can handle as we try to juggle work and career, family and friends, relationships and ourselves. We may want to do it all, but our efforts are often half-hearted. We keep taking on more because we’re being “should-ed” to death.
Now you’re probably arguing that there are many things that you want to do, but just don’t have time to do (unless, of course, you quit sleeping – which opens up a whole other can of psychological and physical problems). But I believe that life is about choice. If you say “yes” to one thing, then you are also saying “no” to something else. You can’t do it all and you can’t have it all. But you can have what you want based on your priorities.
When I decided to write this blog, it was after a difficult experience with a detached retina (lying on your side for 50 minutes on the hour for a month in order to help save your vision gives you a lot of time for reflection). I started asking myself, “What’s really important to me?”
I’ve found that what I spend my time doing is a reflection (either conscious or unconscious) of what has real meaning for me. My actions reflect my priorities. Was I doing something because I wanted to – or was it because this is what a “good person” should do? Doing something half-heartedly is worse than saying “no” in the first place.
We women tend to take care of everybody else, but forget about taking care of ourselves. So I’ve started to say “no” to a lot of things. And each day I wake up and say, “Today is a page in the new book of my life. How do I want to live it?”
Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.