In my former work in the corporate world, I was what you might call the “go to” person on the team. As one of the earliest members of an education technology start-up, I knew a little something about everything and I thrived in this role. As we brought in new people, I was often first to answer questions and help out. I had my finger on the pulse of many projects, and it was exhilarating to be at the center of it all.
For a while, I believed that being the go-to person made me useful, smart and important.
Unfortunately, the downside was that in helping everyone else out all day every day, I’d have to work until 8 o’clock most nights to get my own projects done. I’d often procrastinate and let my own work (and personal life!) slip, as I did the helpful work that made me feel valued.
Over time, although I did get kudos and appreciation for the work I did, this pattern kept me on a professional plateau. I was working harder than I ever had in my life but not getting promoted, and I was frustrated. Meanwhile, my body and heart were beginning to tell me to slow down, but I was too driven by recognition and disconnected from myself to listen.
This went on for a few years, when finally the whispers of my body became louder.
My hair started to fall out, my marriage fell apart. I realized the hard way that listening to all the “shoulds” and trying to please everyone else all of the time at the expense of myself, had really taken a toll.
When I finally began to say “no” and took my foot off the gas two things happened. One, I started liking work again. And two, for the first time in years, work started promoting me.
As I started to prioritize and be kind to myself, my leadership naturally improved.
I see this over and over again with my clients…… the more you learn to say no to other people’s work…the more you begin excelling at your work. This is what takes you to the next level of leadership.
Over the years, my ability to say “no” gracefully has grown from slowing down to ask the right questions of myself before I answer to anyone else. Here are three that help every time:
1. What is the voice that is driving me so hard?
Often the voice that you are hearing that’s driving you forward is a much younger version of yourself… For me, it’s my insecure 2nd-grade self who is afraid of not being good enough, and it’s not serving my wiser, adult self. It tells me “stay up later,” “just finish this one more thing,” or “It’s not good enough, yet. Keep going.”
Often the voice that you are hearing that’s driving you forward is a much younger version of yourself. For me, it’s my insecure 2nd-grade self who is afraid of not being good enough, and it’s not serving my wiser, adult self. She tells me “Stay up later,” “Just finish this one more thing,” or “It’s not good enough, yet. Keep going.”
When I can identify that it’s my inner child is running the show, I can give her the love she needs, so she’ll take a back seat and let me take my foot off the gas a little.
What is the voice that is driving you?
2. What does my wiser self know?
Your wiser self has the confidence you need to slow yourself down. You might not believe it at first but here’s how to identify it. Instead of shaming or blaming you, your inner wisdom tells you:
…“You don’t need to do anything more to get love and approval.”
…”You’re worthwhile just as you are.”
…“Relax, everything is going to be ok.”
The calm that comes when I listen to my wiser self allows me to do my best work, with more ease and joy.
What does your wiser self know?
3. What am I doing that is not my work?
Many people who have gotten this far by “overdoing” have a hard time identifying the support that is all around them. You can’t see the support that’s available when you’re blinded by overdoing.
Delegating well, trusting others to do their work independently without micromanaging, and inviting them to support you in your work, not only builds connection but also it empowers other people. Taking over responsibility for other people’s work leaves you exhausted and your team demotivated.
What are you doing that’s not your work? Where can you let go a little?
Catching yourself in overdoing is hard as this patterning runs deep. Most people need support to transition from overdoing to what I like to call their “slow power”. This spring I’m offering a unique opportunity to discover this power for yourself in the community.
If this over-doing is an old pattern for you and you’re ready to shift into more freedom, ease and success, check out The Whole Life Leadership Bootcamp. It starts March 20, and I’d love to have you there.