Not only do I like to be helpful, I also can’t bear to let an opportunity pass by. So for anything that was asked of me, my only criteria for whether I should say yes was “Can I do it?”
Not “Should I do it” or “Do I really want to do this” or “Is this taking me in my ideal life direction?” Nope, if something was within my capabilities, I would do it.
Naturally, this is no way to live life. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should and the price of saying yes to everything is that it leaves little time in your life for the things that you truly love to do. Let’s face it; life is too short to spend time doing a bunch of stuff that doesn’t make your heart sing.
Saying no is hard though, especially when you’re that person. The one everyone knows can be relied on to lend a hand whenever it is needed. That person who is willing to give anything a go.
So what can you do?
Well you need to start by identifying your passions – the things you would do all day every day if you had all the time in the world at your disposal. For me, my passions are my family, writing, reading and design. These are the things I wish I had more free time for.
The next step is to identify the stuff that sucks the life out of you. It might be that you’re maintaining a toxic friendship or serving on a committee that just does your head in. Or maybe you’re doing work that is a little soul destroying.
This last one was the situation I found myself in about a year ago and it is especially true for many creative people who start businesses. They end up spending so much time caught up in the minutiae of running of their business that they don’t get to do all the fun stuff – the creating.
The solution? Well it can be a long process but you need to start somewhere.
Identify one soul-destroying thing that takes up a lot of time and figure out a way to eliminate it from your life. In the case of the toxic friend, you simply don’t see them anymore. If running your business is sucking the life out of you, determine the things you hate that someone else can be doing (like say, the bookkeeping!)
Don’t try to change everything at once but over time, as you eliminate the things that drain your energy, you can also run any new requests and opportunities through a different filter. For me, “Can I do this?” has been replaced by “is this in line with your stated passions?” If the answer is no, then that is my response too.
On the surface this may seem a little selfish but obviously it’s not. We’re no good to the people around us if we’re unhappy, and there’s no faster path to unhappiness and resentment than doing ‘stuff’ we feel we should be doing rather than the stuff we’d like to be doing. And we don’t have to stop helping people either; we just need to help in a way we enjoy. For someone like me, I’d be better off designing a club newsletter than I would be serving on the committee. For someone else, it might be the reverse.
Whatever way you decide to go, it pays to remember that ‘true passions flourish in clear air’. I wonder how many of us are in the position where we desperately need to create some clear air in our lives.
Do you have an energy suck in your life at the moment? Is there a passion you could feed by getting rid of just one commitment?