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Are various tasks and roles you've played congruent with values you've identified? Are you putting more time than is reasonable into some tasks and roles? The operative word here is "reasonable." For example, a special friend lost her husband and had no one to help her with grief and anger, not to mention funeral arrangements and lawyers. My value of service and loving relationships and role as "friend" and also surrogate "daughter" created many tasks and demands. For me, it would have been unreasonable not to spend considerable time with Jeanne. The sailboat headed in her direction.
Another example. I discovered that I was putting far too much time in role of "office worker" rather than in role of "manager". Instead of assigning tasks and growing others, I was taking work on that did NOT need to be done by me. Time to alter course and allow my associates to hold tiller.
Finally, by putting so much emphasis on role of professional speaker and its tasks, I had let drop ME. Time to make decisions for overhaul and repair, saying "yes" to a day off, to a day of contemplative silence. I realized that without silence, all I bring to platform and my audiences are echoes of words rather than insights.
Step 4: Now that you have identified what is, make a list of questions to ask yourself when you begin to take on a role and task. My list looks like this:
• Does it support my value for life-long learning and make a difference? Will it stop another person from growing?
• Will it stretch my abilities?
I recently accepted an assignment that will cost time, money and effort as well as time away from home. I accepted it because it will move me into trying something that I have never done before ... an activity directly related to my role of profe ssional speaking and service.
• Does it allow me to be with people whom I care about?
How often have we all said "yes" to an engagement because we feel "guilty"? The reality is that we find people tedious, demanding, and downright boring. I have finally determined that if I have limited time with my family and friends, it is perfectly fine to periodically decline such invitations.
• Is it irresistible?
That’s right-- "Irresistible". Does what you are about to say “yes” to come without a significant doubt. Does request come without compromise or force from either offeror or me. There is no emotional blackmail, no "should", no social obligation. Irresistible requests are gifts to be gratefully accepted. If our time is filled only with "resistible" demands, how we will ever be able to accept irresistible?
• Is it fun and will it allow for creativity and a change of pace?
• Will it create organization and structure in my life? Am I only one who can do this?
• Will it nurture my physical well-being and respect my natural pace?
I have discovered that unlike many of my colleagues, non-stop travel is exhausting and not fun. My body requires seven hours of sleep, regular exercise and down time. I can take only so many back-on-back engagements before I must say "no". Trusting that I can say "no" is a lesson I struggle to learn.
• Is it authentic to me and of service to others?
I was asked if I would run for Board of a non-profit. Knowing I have strong organizational and leadership abilities not to mention an ego- saying "yes" to serve membership SEEMED appropriate. However, when I tested request against other questions listed above, more negative responses appeared.
The art of balancing an unequal life means that we seek answers to all these questions before choosing next activity to put in our life. Yes there will be days, even months, when pressure of every day pushes us into knee-jerk reactions and work seems to be working us. External forces and folks seem to be pushing us for more, for faster, for further. Once realized, stop. Lower sails. Breathe. Ask yourself these questions. Remember, there is a big difference between leading edge and bleeding edge. Alienation from our authentic, deepest self and each other draws blood. Connection to our core and humanity around us draws life.
© 2000 by Eileen McDargh. All rights reserved. Reprints must include byline, contact information and copyright.
Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE, is an international speaker, author and seminar leader. Her book ‘Work for A Living and Still Be Free to Live’ is also the title of one of her most popular and upbeat programs on Work/Life Balance. For more information on Eileen and her presentations, please call 949-496-8640 or visit her web site at http://www.eileenmcdargh.com.