I’m going to start this month with a confession. I’ve struggled with boundaries.
Boundaries didn’t really align with how I saw myself – the businesswoman who never missed an opportunity, the mom and wife who handled it all, the friend who never said no.
But here’s the problem: that “I’ll handle it, all of it” mentality wasn’t actually aligned with my goals for myself and my business.
So I had to learn to say “no.” Or, in many cases, “not now.”
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
– Newton’s Third Law of Motion
Every time you’re saying yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. You might have learned about equal and opposite reactions in high school physics, but you can view just about any part of your life through this lens.
If you don’t believe me, take it from Oprah. She talks about why she believes the law affects everything we do physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually.
When you get honest about what you want to say yes to and what you need to say no to you’ll be able to start defining your boundaries.
That’s huge! Why?
Because boundaries are foundational. We cannot have the business or life or relationships we want without boundaries. You have to have boundaries to make an impact.
“You are not required to set yourself on fire
to keep other people warm.”
I struggled in my catering business for years because I was hesitant to say any task, deadline, or request was out of bounds.
And the biggest issue was that I wouldn’t set boundaries with myself.
In the beginning I took every job, even though my passion was in creating gorgeous hors d’oeuvres. I turned around proposals in record time, afraid to lose a potential client.
I was coming from a place of fear, necessity, and scarcity.
I assumed a good business owner replies immediately. I feared if I niched down too far I wouldn’t have enough business.
Oh, how mistaken I was.
It turned out, as long as I replied promptly to potential clients and told them when I would have an answer or proposal for them, they were more than happy to wait. (Okay, sure, some weren’t – and if there was true urgency I knew from experience I could rise to the challenge. If it was false urgency? Not my ideal client, and better for us both to find a better fit.)
And when I chose to listen to my passion and focus the business on making the most delectable bite-sized creations I could dream up?
My catering business grew ten-fold.
Take that, self-doubt.
Boundaries are about what you will do and what you won’t do, not about what other people will do and won’t.
– Yours Truly
My philosophy has always been based in accounting for your personal and professional priorities.
Boundaries are what hold the two together so we actually can incorporate and focus on both. Boundaries are the bridge between these two crucial aspects of our lives and they are what allows us to prioritize our goals, vision, and actions.
Boundaries are how we make space for each one rather than becoming overwhelmed – which is when we wind up neglecting one side.
So, how do you set effective boundaries? I thought you’d never ask.
1. Pause (of course)
There is always so much wisdom waiting in the pause.
What we say yes to and no to is creating our future. Boundaries help hold the yes’s and no’s
This pause is your chance to get clear on WHY you have the boundary. When we know why we’re saying yes or no to an opportunity (or distraction) it’s much easier to hold that boundary and not waver.stop second guessing ourselves.
2. Give the Gift of Transparency – Set Expectations
Next it’s time to set new ground rules with those around you.
You’re changing how you’re going to operate. Giving your team, colleagues, or family and friends clarity on what you’re changing gives them a chance to meet you there.
You can let the people in your life and business know, “I know I’ve always done X, but I’m realizing it’s no longer working for me. Here is what I’m willing to do,” and discuss what that looks like going forward.
But if you’ve always danced a certain dance with them and then hop off the dance floor without an explanation? That’s inviting confusion, and ultimately more conflict.
3. Don’t Over-Explain
We often feel guilty when we say no. And establishing a boundary often sounds like a no.
We feel we need to justify our choice, reasoning, and how we ruled out every option we decided not to go with.
But don’t do that.
Because one thing is sure, people don’t like change. I won’t be surprised if the person on the other end of your new boundary would rather you keep on trucking the way you have been. They might want to pressure you to stick with the status quo, or even argue with you about your decision.
The less you say, the less they have to argue about.
It is your responsibility to state your boundaries in a clear, effective, direct, and respectful manner. It is NOT your responsibility to manage how the other person reacts.
Explaining every detail only makes it easier to be ‘thrown’ off balance by their reaction … then we wind up changing our minds in the moment.
4. The Toddler Effect
This one’s not pretty or pleasant, but it’s easier to be prepared for it.
That person who didn’t love your boundary and wanted to argue about it in step 3? They might not take your clarity as their final answer. They liked the original dance you were dancing, and they’d like to draw you back on the floor.
If this is the case, they will more than likely ‘push’ you. Sometimes lightly, sometimes with a bit of a strong-arm approach, they will try to move you back to how you’ve always ‘shown up’ in the relationship.
It’s a lot like a toddler testing a parent. When a young child wants something – say, a candy bar in the grocery store – first they ask. After a no, maybe they start whining. After another no, maybe you’ve got a tantrum on your hands. And if you still hold out? Well, now it’s time for that ear-piercing shriek that has always worked before.
But you have clarity about your goals, because you used the pause to consider what you want. You know why you’re saying yes or no to this dance. And you’re prepared for the proverbial (or maybe literal…) tantrum.
So even though this person in your life is testing your boundary, you’re able to provide the stability of a clear and unwavering response. And like a toddler, they will eventually grow out of this tantrum phase.
When you’re being tested, I invite you to try this approach:
5. Say, “Can you get back to me on that?”
Yup. Put the ball back in their court. They’re asking you for something. Make them make it easier on you.
If someone wants your advice or insight but isn’t willing to send a bullet list of what they want to talk about, don’t book the call.
When you put the onus back on them it gives you the space to step back so you’re not asking yourself, “why did I say yes to that?”
You’re building in a chance to pause here. And by pausing you can take the time to make sure this request connects to your goals and priorities.
Be intentional in what you are saying yes to and no to… and remember each is creating your future.
And because I know it will eventually come up: If they push you for an answer quickly, then say, “If you need an answer right now, it will need to be no.”
You are entitled to your pause, your priorities, and your boundaries!
Has this latest trend made it to your business’s doorstep yet?
It’s a good one, and packs some serious heft.
“Psychological safety” – the new buzzword for leaders and individuals looking to work better, smarter, more creatively, and without toxicity. (That toxicity, thankfully, is under a well-deserved microscope thanks in part to the Great Resignation – and psychological safety is part of the recipe for the antidote.)
Sounds great, right… but what is it? And how do you know if it’s present?
It’s simpler to recreate how it felt when you likely didn’t have psychological safety. Think about a time in your career when you had to make a manager aware of a problem at work. Maybe something wasn’t working as planned, a deadline was about to be missed, or a serious issue was getting overlooked. Maybe some part of that was even your fault.
How did you feel just before you told them?
Did you worry that you’d be blamed, that someone would be angry with you, that there’d be fallout that was anything but focused on solving the problem?
That was the utter opposite of psychological safety. And even if you were brave enough to face it, can you imagine how often others are not? Fear of failure is paralyzing… and by trying to avoid or postpone it, we actually cement it.
The gift, now, is that you have the opportunity to cultivate psychological safety for your team, even if you were “brought up” in an environment where the opposite was the status quo.
So what is psychological safety?
Psychological safety is the sense that any of your team members can speak up without fear. It is permission for candor, disagreement, and risk-taking.
It is the space to try something, because mistakes and failures are dealt with professionally and proportionately.
It is about separating anyone’s self-worth from the company’s success or failure. Every contributor still owns their performance, but they won’t be made to feel that their performance at work is the definition of their entire being.
It also is about embracing authenticity. In an environment where the team fears ridicule, individualism and new ideas are squashed for fear of not fitting in. When feedback and contributions are evaluated on their individual merits you’re encouraging those out-of-the-box ideas that might not otherwise be shared. Authenticity means being vulnerable, and to be vulnerable one generally needs to feel safe.
It’s also important to understand what psychological safety is NOT.
- Hand-holding and “participation trophies”
- Always being nice
- Evading discomfort
- Lack of accountability
In fact, psychological safety should actually INCREASE accountability; when you have a team that is rewarded for owning mistakes and shortcomings, when that team is dedicated to identifying and solving issues – you are encouraging ownership, problem solving, and thinking outside of the box.
Why is psychological safety so important?
Hopefully the basic tenets that make up psychological safety already sound appealing. But we can build a better case for doing this work to create this environment.
Professional permission to take a risk lets your team know they have the support of the business. Everyone is invested – with agreement at every level that the upsides of the bets we’re collectively taking outweigh the risks of occasional failures. As a result, employees feel secure in taking a swing at their big idea. And businesses see increasing benefits of investing in that security as employees hit bigger and bigger successes.
When you have the security to disagree, everyone benefits from the progress and collaborative solutions that can only be attained with open and honest feedback.
When you have space to fail, your entire team has leeway to get creative and think outside the box.
The leaps forward for your company won’t come from safely standing still.
Admitting that there are things to learn encourages a team to seek out that learning.
All of this creates an environment where everyone on the team has a sense of ownership, mutual respect, and knows that their input is valued. You’re fostering engagement. You’re rewarding those who bring their passion to their work. You’re getting so much more than you would from disengaged employees – those who give their time, but not much more.
I’m in. How do I build psychological safety in my workplace?
1. Start with the end in mind
To create a culture that has a basis in psychological safety, you have to understand what you want your company culture to look like. This is the foundation, the underpinning of everything. In life and in business.
Just like with creating a business plan so you can achieve your goals, you need to know what you want your culture to be and why you’re pursuing a safe environment – one that fosters engagement, collaboration, creativity; one that celebrates success and learns openly from failure.
Create this with intention, and ask yourself:
- What does a culture of engagement look like to you?
- How are people contributing, collaborating?
- What do you want, need, or expect from an engaged & collaborative team?
- What is the end result you’d like from a more engaged team and what one thing, if done consistently, would allow you to get there?
If you want a culture, and team, who freely engage, collaborate, and create fearlessly, you need to have a clear intention for how YOU will show up each day to focus on and create that culture.
2. Master your mindset and harness your authentic awkward self
One of the biggest steps you can take to unilaterally promote a psychologically safe environment is very simple… and yet for some, very hard.
Your authentic, awkward, odd, self.
It doesn’t just feel real-er. “Fitting in” limits growth and innovation. We’re driving so hard at risk taking and creativity. What is creative about being cookie cutter business-casual automatons? Where is the risk (and reward) in being just like everyone else?
Bringing our authentic awkward self to work helps you build a life and business that’s fulfilling and doesn’t consume you. Stop pretending so hard, and start embracing your real self – even if she’s a little nutty sometimes!
When you show up as who you are on the outside, you invite others to show up as who they are, too. You give them a chance to really see you and trust you.
What you’re being on the outside – authentically awkward, with a dose of vulnerability – is what your team, colleagues, friends, kids, etc, are being on the inside. They want to bring their authentic awkwardness out…and they need a safe place to do so.
When they see you doing it, it gives them permission and safety to show up as a whole person, not just the bits and pieces they think they need to be in order to belong and connect.
If this all feels very trendy and new, consider that Maslow essentially made this point for us in his hierarchy of needs. After your physiological needs (food, water) and physical safety are met, the next step on the hierarchy is belonging.
Note that it’s not “fitting in,” but a true sense of belonging and connection in your relationships. It’s only when you have that sense of authentically belonging that you can move up the pyramid in your self-esteem, identity, and ultimate goal of self-actualization. Imagine how powerful your business could be if you’re enabling your teams to achieve their full potential.
3. Take the time to get to know your team
93% of employees want to work for a company that cares about them as an individual
-2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study
Now that we’ve dropped (or are slowly dismantling) our professional facades and we’re showing up as ourselves at work, it’s time for you to see, hear, and connect with your team as they really are, too.
People want (a safe place) to be seen and heard.
And safety begins with being seen.
Get to know your team – really know them. Be the boots on the ground of your company. Stop by, engage in conversation, ask about their family – or whatever is most important to them.
CONNECT with them. This isn’t small talk. This is the cornerstone of human relationships.
This will foster trust, safety, collaboration, break down silos, improve your employee experience and hence your customer experience: EX=CX
And then reinforce that trust. Regularly.
- Do you keep their “confidences” safe – what they’re confiding in with you?
- Are you showing up consistently?
- Showing genuine interest?
- Displaying that you’ve retained what they’ve shared?
When your team trusts you, knows that you value and trust them, and believes the business stands behind them, you’re likely to see new levels of collaboration.
Authenticity. Trust. Collaboration. Safety. Creativity. Risk. Engagement. Passion. Reward.
It’s a powerful cycle. And dare I say, a safe bet.
Retention. Resignation. Career satisfaction. Chances are you’ve thought about at least one of these lately… whether you’ve handed in your notice or you’re hoping to hold on to your team.
With the Great Resignation, retention is not just about money anymore. There’s a reckoning in the corporate world, and workers are reevaluating everything from working hours and environments to their company’s culture and values.
Wondering what to do about it? If you’re managing or leading a team, it’s time to show your capacity for empathy and adaptability to retain and gain employees.
This puts the key leadership soft skills, listening and communication, at the center of the puzzle. I’d like to think I saw this trend coming – these are the areas that come up most often for the leaders I coach, even pre-pandemic. But did any of us REALLY see ALL of this coming?
Regardless, it’s time to catch up to the change. To do that, you may need to reshape everything you’ve learned about being seen as the “boss.”
“It takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a manager who engages them, and next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers.”
– Gallup Workplace Insights for 2021
Leadership’s missing key
To unlock ease, productivity, and cohesion in your workplace, start with some self-reflection about how your business is operating and what part you’re playing in that.
Consider putting your relationships over revenue – when we focus on taking exceptional care of our employees, the employees will take exceptional care of our customers…and the customers will take exceptional care of us. The revenue follows suit.
What does taking care of your employees look like? It’s going to be a little different for everyone, but here’s the great thing about that. If you’re ready to listen, they’re going to tell you.
The trouble is, most of us weren’t taught to be excellent communicators. We don’t necessarily know how to deal with frustration and anger, let alone deal with it professionally. So some of us tamp it down… and then we breed resentment.
If that’s not your M.O., I can almost guarantee it’s the pattern for at least one of your employees.
So it’s your job to get to the bottom of that breakdown.
How can you speak to your team with clarity, intention, and fairness? How can you express what you need from them, putting everyone on the same page for expectations and responsibilities?
And by the same token, how can you encourage them to engage with you, honestly and productively? What will you gain when you slow down to be curious, to listen, to be present with your teams?
Leading as a COMMUNICATOR
“The main driver of employee experience and culture is the way leaders communicate.”
– Elizabeth Cardiello, BRAVE Conversations Over Coffee
As a lead communicator, you will literally set the tone for your workplace. You are the one to establish trust, transparency, and safety to speak. You can create a culture of collaboration instead of silos. Your team will be stronger for it.
You also create the boundaries and accountability for your business. Your team knows what the benchmarks are because you set them. They know what you expect of them because you tell them.
What happens when you don’t get clear and consistent about those boundaries and benchmarks? It might look on the surface like things are working. But in most workplaces your team is now falling back on the Unwritten Ground Rules.
UGRs are the ways we function in any setting because, honestly, we can. Leadership or the culture outwardly pays lip service to one standard, but in practice it’s the UGRs that actually dictate the parameters for how we’ll interact.
UGRs are the “good old boys,’ the microaggressions gone unaddressed, and the standards applied without consistency. They persist because it’s easier to turn a blind eye than to change the culture at the heart of the rules, but they breed conflict and resentment. If there’s ever a moment needing direction and clear communication from a leader, it’s here.
Have you ever been in the position of not being sure if you’re doing the right thing at work or if you’re meeting expectations? To put it bluntly, it sucks, right? And worse, have you also felt it would make you “look bad” to ask for clarification? What an uncomfortable, no-win situation.
You can break that cycle.
Let me give you an example. I had one client whose most pressing professional problem tracked back to his own shortcomings with communication.
He felt like he needed to fire one of his employees, but he was incredibly conflicted about it. He had never been direct and clear with them about the expectations. He also had not been clear that this employee was not meeting those expectations.
So instead of feeling confident about a move he needed to make for his business, he lacked the clarity on whether this was the right decision. Was this employee truly the wrong fit, or did the responsibility actually lie with himself?
Of course, the responsibility WAS his. But that responsibility was to be clear. To lead his team. To listen to that employee’s reaction to the feedback, as well as the team’s input on what was working and what wasn’t.
Until he could get clear about that, nothing was going to get any easier.
Leading as a LISTENER
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
As much as your team needs to hear from you, they need you to listen to them. REALLY listen.
This comes up often here – and it’s because it is so key, and so misunderstood. If you’re scripting your rebuttal while someone is speaking? You’re listening just to reply. You need to be listening to understand.
Too often we’re making sure we’re “right,” then defending ourselves (maybe even when we’re wrong) and trying to, above all else, “win.”
Can you set that aside and listen to the people around you? Can your primary goal be to honestly say “I hear you,” and to have those people believe you?
Consider how frustrating it is to be misunderstood. What if your employees, your coworkers, even your family, never had to feel that with you?
Leading by taking the first step
If it’s time to communicate and listen like a leader you’re going to start by doing LESS. Internally, you’ll be doing a lot more. More observing, more facilitating. But outwardly? You’ll at the very least be SAYING less, at the start.
1) Be Present & Get Curious – Put aside your stress and any conflict. To get started, you’ve got to get honest about the current situation. See what is actually happening, and ask questions, to yourself or others, about what’s causing that. Don’t assume you already know. Stay curious and stay open to what you’re about to learn.
2) Be Silent – As you move through your work and life, don’t feel the need to fill the space. Stay quiet and see what happens when you let the story in front of you unfold without your intervention, or opinion. You might learn a lot more about what’s important to the people around you, what they need, what they’re capable of, and what you can let go of.
3) Walk the halls – This is admittedly harder, and unfortunately more important, if you’re connecting virtual teams. Make the time to check-in, professionally and personally. Listen without an agenda – truly listen. When the people in your life see you showing up, they will start to open up.
4) Build trust – When people talk to you, show them you’re actively listening. Reflect back to them what they’ve shared with you. Let them speak without a quick reaction on your part, and reinforce to them that what they’ve shared is valuable, even if it’s a critique.
Ready to start listening?
Maybe you’re ready to see how that shift in communication will move you forward in all your relationships. Now it’s time to take that listening out into your world.
You can change how the people in your life experience you. How you experience them. And how you experience YOURSELF.
Let each of those shifts change how you communicate, too.
When you do, it becomes easier to resolve conflict. You’re improving your relationships, you’re decreasing stress. You’re holding yourself accountable for doing your part. And having done that work you know it’s fair to expect accountability from those around you.
With this effectiveness comes self-confidence.
I can’t wait to listen to what you do with that gift.
“Nevermind, I’ll do it myself.”
I’m willing to bet you’ve said that, muttered that, or at least thought that, and probably more than a couple times. Maybe you’ve even joked, “if you want something done right, you’ve gotta do it yourself.”
But maybe that quip had the edge of truth to it?
Pause for a second and consider – do you need it done RIGHT? Or deep down do you really just need to know you did it YOURSELF?
“Perfectionism is a delusion that can rob one of a very successful, enriching life if not careful.”
Why do you need control?
Many of my clients come to me stuck in their field of what they control. It looks a little different every time – one micromanages their team, another has overfilled their plate by never saying “No” to anything.
Control can be sneaky and deceptive; even when it starts out with someone or something else running the show. You’ve accepted everything a manager or colleague wants to move from their list to yours, you handle the details big and small, you secure the outcome you want or need – I’ve got news for you. That’s your control talking.
One of my clients started working with me because she realized she was doing it “all” – in her business, at home, and with her family. If something needed doing, she did it. This worked great for everyone around her, but it wasn’t going so well for her.
From one point of view, it was everyone else who was controlling her. Her day, her workload, her balance (or lack thereof) of self and others.
But at the heart of it, she was exacting as much control in the ways she could. By never saying “no” she was trying to control her image and what people thought of her. Taking on anything that needed doing – controlling the to-do list – meant being the best, doing the most, and never letting a ball drop or, God forbid, show how overwhelmed she was.
She wasn’t particularly happy, she wasn’t fulfilled. She was, however, frustrated.
So we set to work.
Think about what it means to “have things under control.” It’s handled. The outcome is predictable.
Having control lets you feel safe. And we ALL need to feel safe.
The trouble is, control isn’t terribly discriminating. Too often, control picks either the wrong target or an ineffective means. Maybe things at home have gotten a little crazy, so you double down at work. Or maybe you’ve made a conscious goal of excelling in your business, but that shows up as micromanaging and ineffective leadership.
How to get control over your need for control
The need for control can be paralyzing and polarizing. Both stop you from being the person you want to be.
To stop letting your need for control control you, you’ve got to understand it. And when you understand it you’ll be able to decide if it’s serving you.
Try starting here…
1. Ask yourself, “Is it control, or is it fear?”
If you’re feeling anxious about the future, the unknown, the world… you’re not alone. You’re DEFINITELY not alone.
But if you do feel alone, you can bet your overbearing friend, Control, is willing to be there every step of the way to keep you company.
It’s time to challenge your fear. Since our controlling behaviors are often driven by fear, we need to understand what it is we’re afraid of.
For my client with the never-ending full plate, it took some time to sort out what she was afraid of. She so infrequently asked for help that she had no clear sense of how her loved ones would respond.
In her business, we had to explore a similar problem. She disagreed with her business partner at times – but wasn’t even sure how to express her differing point of view, let alone come to a consensus. The fear of stepping on any toes or damaging a relationship is paralyzing for someone who finds safety in controlling what people think of her.
The trouble is, she also wanted to be seen as a leader in the business. And to do that, you have to confidently, compassionately, and proactively LEAD, even if sometimes that means having a disagreement or knowing someone is less than happy with you.
By controlling the details of her life, and by proxy, the dynamics of her relationships, my client was giving up control of so much else. Her happiness, her time, the bigger picture of her future… Her control was putting a bandaid on her fears. But between her fear and her control, she was stuck.
Getting unstuck meant we had to work on step 2, and get those uncomfortable (but productive) conversations started.
2. Check your communication style
We tend to operate as if we can control other people with how or what we communicate.
Unfortunately, this sets us up for muddling the message from the start. My leaders, particularly, struggle here.
It’s our responsibility to communicate clearly, effectively, directly, & respectfully… It is not our responsibility how it lands for the other person. We don’t control that. Yet, we continue to take responsibility for other people’s reactions and we let that impact how we convey what we need to say.
Are you afraid of how an employee will respond to feedback? You have (at least) two options. You can try to control how they feel (and how they feel about YOU) by blunting the message. Or you can do your absolute best to clearly convey your observation, your evaluation, and your expectations.
Are you more worried about how your team feels about a message? Or whether they know what to do with it?
(And as applicable as this is to the workplace, unclear communication and confusion carry over into personal relationships far, far too often, as well.)
As Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
3. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good
The reverence we have for perfect fans the flames of our control.
Yes, perfectionism will drive you to cross your T’s and dot your I’s, but at what cost?
Your instinct for control is whispering, “Just make it a little better – then you know you’ll get what you’re after.” But when perfectionism keeps you from hitting publish on that article, from going Live on social media to build your following, from inviting that “big” client to work with you, or applying for that high-level position you’d be perfect for with just a little more experience?
That’s when perfectionism is keeping you “safe” by avoiding what needs to be done. You’re eliminating the risk of rejection… but you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity for success.
If you find yourself in a perfectionism trap, start asking yourself, how is your perfectionism getting in the way of you being the leader you want to be… how is it impacting your team? Your relationships?
What do you want instead?
Get clear on who you want to be. Identify the actions that will have you showing up as him or her every day…personally and professionally. Then do it.
Go for progress over perfection. Perfection gets in the way of possible.
“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
The opposite of control (Hint: It’s not chaos)
Giving up (or just easing up) on control feels like you’re giving up your certainty. Are you inviting in chaos?
Quite the contrary, when you give up control you’re setting yourself up to gain clarity – and be able to give the same to those around you.
When my clients struggling with control focus on compassionate curiosity for themselves and what’s motivating them, they begin to recognize when control is rearing its head. We develop tools and habits to choose a different response. We keep effort and action focused on their goals, not their fears.
In their homes, this can look like the simple shift to asking questions instead of giving orders. Inviting spouses and kids to the conversation shifts the dynamic and fuels intrinsic motivation.
In the workplace, my clients who want to become ex-micromanagers work on giving their team autonomy over their day and how they get their work done. With good leadership, this pays off. Daniel Pink writes in his book, Drive, having autonomy is one of the main motivators for intrinsic motivation – essential in a cohesive and collaborative team.
The heart of trading control for clarity is having graceful accountability for yourself. That can be particularly hard when you find yourself down the rabbit hole of control.
Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t let yourself off the hook. Ask yourself these 3 questions:
- What’s in my control?
- What’s out of my control?
- What do I partially control?
(For example, if you’re a part of a team, you control your contribution/actions, but not other members which can impact collaboration, communication, productivity… and can get in the way of a project being completed on time.)
Then act and react accordingly.
Control is a reaction to something bigger that’s going on. When you start looking for what that bigger thing is… that’s when you’re really on to something.
Our busyness is costing us the future we’re working so hard for.
How can that be? If you do the work it’s supposed to pay off, and we’re out here working our butts off. That payoff must be right around the corner by now.
But take a second and consider – when was the last time you checked whether all that busyness was aligned with your business? Much less your goals, your dreams, and your life?
The key question isn’t “Did I do enough?” but rather, “Did I focus on what’s most important?”
How often do you feel like there’s never enough? There’s never enough time… money… support… sleep… etc. If you’re pushing yourself to move faster and work harder to find where “enough” is hiding, I’ve got a radical suggestion for you.
Hit pause. Do less.
In today’s busy, over-caffeinated, multitasking world, it’s a rogue idea to buck the trend of more, bigger, faster, in favor of the whitespace during our day to make room for less, but better.
And yet, “less, but better” might be exactly the solution you didn’t know you’re looking for.
My client Barbara came to me a few years ago because, while she was successful, she was also stressed out, burnt out, and maxed out, and she didn’t know how to change it.
Her days consisted of back-to-back meetings, lunch at her computer, and barely time for a bathroom break
There was certainly no time for thinking about the future or the past to reflect on what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change.
She kept doing what she had always done, getting the results she’d always had, and she was not content with either.
Barbara’s not alone, of course. A 2020 Gallup study revealed that 28% of workers feel burnt out very often, or worse, always. And that number has been trending upwards in recent years.
When doing more is no longer a feasible solution, you have to consider the upside of doing less.
When Barbara hit pause she realized she never said “NO,” even when “YES” wasn’t adding to her life or her business.
It also became clear that there was one service she offered that was a true trifecta: it kept her the busiest, was the least profitable, and it was the least enjoyable for her.
She decided to take that offering off the table.
Adding more to your plate does not always add more to your life. In fact, it often creates the opposite.
3 Reasons to Unhook from a life of busyness:
Busyness Cost #1: Decreased Creativity
Our busyness diminishes our ability to think creatively.
We see everyone around us putting in long hours, working weekends, bragging about how busy they are. It can make us uncomfortable to not follow the herd. So we keep doing the same, hesitant to blaze our own authentic trail.
The good news is, although social pressure is real, its hold on us may be more tenuous than it seems. Psychologist Solomon Asch found in his experiments that when just one person in a small group goes against the majority’s choice, it can reduce conformity by up to 80 percent.
How can you reclaim your individuality and make the unique choices that serve your business and yourself best?
Buck the busyness and make some whitespace time to think.
If taking a “break” is still too uncomfortable, try what LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner does: he schedules thinking time throughout his day. (After all, if your calendar is still booked, you must still be busy!)
Scheduling time to think will help us understand if we want to conform or decide/create our own path. Taking time to think about our choices helps us to create the future we want, instead of what’s expected.
And when you have time to think, you have time to prioritize.
Busyness Cost #2: Self-Doubt
We all want to feel like we’re intentionally choosing our life instead of continually reacting to it.
So many of the people I speak with say they want more balance but they just aren’t sure how to achieve it…and they don’t feel like they have the ”luxury” to slow down and figure it out.
Can you relate?
No amount of hustle and grind feels like enough.
Soon enough, this morphs into a feeling that we’re not enough.
As a result, we can become consumed by creating “enough” and quickly lose our perspective of who we are.
We pack our calendars so full it’s physically (and emotionally) impossible to accomplish all we have on our to-do list.
So we start to lose belief in ourselves that we have what it takes to live the life we want, be the person we want to be, and experience relationships that nurture us rather than drain us.
Where are you living in a belief that you have to work harder, longer, faster, and better to achieve more of what you want?
Is it working for you?
Do you want something different?
You have permission to pause and figure out exactly what that is.
It’s too easy to get stuck in the gap between where we are and where we want to go, instead of looking at how far we’ve come and letting that feed our confidence.
High achievers are particularly prone to being in the gap.
Let’s change that.
Busyness Cost #3: Anxiety
Pausing can reveal anxieties. Pausing is not easy.
Simple, but not easy, and this can trip us up.
When we’re driving ourselves this hard it’s easier to ignore the underlying anxiety many high achievers grapple with.
Anxiety is so often about control. “Doing” means you’ve taken action and even if that action isn’t moving you toward your goals it could be quelling that anxiety. Temporarily.
Pausing feels like doing nothing, particularly to the anxious. It leaves room for the anxiety to start talking (or shouting) and running the show. “DO SOMETHING!”
When you subscribe to busyness you’re treating the symptom of anxiety, not the cause. Your busyness alone isn’t moving you forward. It gives you the illusion of movement, but you might just be spinning your wheels.
And when you’ve finally added so much busyness to your agenda that you can never keep up? You’ve added fuel to the anxiety fire – those tasks left unfinished and those emails unanswered must be the magic bullet, the path out of “never enough.” If you could just get to everything on the list…
The solution isn’t in finishing the list. If anxiety is going to take hold whether you “do everything” or “do nothing” the answer must be in the “do some things.”
And the question is, which things?
That’s exactly the question Barbara needed to ask herself.
We talked about how she often struggled with her energy and staying healthy, especially during the busiest times in her business. We’re talking back problems, headaches, exhaustion, unhealthy relationships, and more.
When we stepped back and looked at when she was the most healthy (physically, emotionally, and financially) she saw that it was when she was honoring the space on her calendar for self-care. Things like ladies’ night with her friends, a bubble bath, getting out in nature, getting 8-hours of sleep, yoga, and lunch – away from her desk with the computer turned off.
Her productivity, profitability, and ability to be present with the ones she loves were all dependent on her carving out time to focus on what mattered most.
But she thought she didn’t have time to slow down and identify what that was.
This is a recurring theme in some shape or form with all of my clients. They are successful, but there’s a cost. One that is not sustainable over time.
The one habit that helped Barbara to say “NO” more so she could build a business that sustains the life she wants to live, not consume it?
The habit of creating space in her day to think before launching into action.
She prioritized creating white space throughout her day to improve her creativity, efficiency, self-confidence, and relationships.
Ready to create a sustainable approach to success that inspires instead of exhausts?
Gift yourself the space to build sustainability into your life.
Set an alarm (a silent alarm) every few hours to remind yourself to look up and breathe, and proceed with intention.
Less can be the new more if we allow it.
Isn’t it time to adopt a less but better mindset?