First thing’s first:
I can’t tell you how many times I have been told to never say, “It’s not my job.” Seriously, I think every job I’ve ever had I’ve heard that at least once. In order to be a good employee (and good person) it has been instilled in us time and time again that if we see that something needs to be done we should just do it, stoically without complaint.
Well, I call bullshit!
Should we go around telling everyone, “that’s not my job” or ignore people that need our help? Of course not. But we also should not over extend ourselves so much by doing everything for everybody that we lose sight of our own duties or well being.
When you do everything for everybody you are totally disrespecting your own self-care, time and life. You will become drained and burnt out. It’s impossible to keep that up, no matter how hard you try.
Here’s how I got out of that dreadful habit and changed my life for the better:
I started staying in my own lane. I stopped giving advice or trying to solve other people’s problems. It’s one thing to be a shoulder to cry on when something awful happens to a friend but another to devote your personal time and effort into fixing someone else’s life. You are only responsible for yourself. We all have problems. We all need to figure out the answers to our own problems in our own time. I realized the old saying that you can lead a horse to water but can’t make him drink is so true.
An example would be when a friend continues to complain over and over about the relationship they are in but does nothing to change it. All the advice, love and support in the world isn’t going to help someone who doesn’t want to change their situation for the better. So, put simply, stop giving it. Don’t be the person who everyone comes to when they aren’t willing to help themselves. They aren’t looking for ways to live a better life. They are looking for pity and validation. This may seem cold but it is a reality for some people. Of course, if you can brighten someone’s day who is going through a truly hard time or be a listening ear for someone who has gone through something dreadful, by all means do so. But the buck stops there. Simply stop responding to the person who tells the same story over and over again. They will get the message. Change the subject or simply say, “I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. I hope you can find the answers you’re looking for to bring you happiness.”
If it helps you, try to remember that life’s problems are opportunities to grow. It is only when your friend figures out what is best for them that they will grow. Ultimately, you can’t take away anyone’s problems, nor should you, because it is their chance to learn whatever they need to learn in life. If they are stuck at a station that’s ok. It’s their life and their station, not yours.
I started journaling and to-do lists.
You might be wondering how in the world journaling could help you to say no and stop doing everyone else’s job. Seems like a strange concept but hear me out.
There are numerous ways to journal as you may well know. One thing I like to do is to take 4 or 5 journaling concepts and combine them into my own journaling. I often journal by reviewing my day (how did I spend my time?), looking at things from a larger perspective (what are my personal short and long term goals?), using prompts to ask myself questions (what do I want out of life? What’s holding me back?), taking a moment for gratitude and planning for the next day (what will I be doing to bring me closer to fulfilling my goals?) Each concept only takes a few minutes or so to do unless I feel like spending more time in one area.
When you write down your goals and execute a plan for the next day it gives you chance to start the next morning with focus and determination. This is your plan to achieve your goals. It keeps you on track to be productive and actively pursue those plans and goals and it keeps you focused on what not to be spending your time on. If you’re busy living the life you’re supposed to be living, you aren’t spending as much time and energy doing everyone else’s job.
For example, you’re at work and have your own tasks to deal with. You have your list of things that need to be accomplished. You have your day mapped out for you. (Pro-tip: Use an app so you can refer to your journal/lists anytime you need to during the day. I love Evernote). You’re ticking those boxes off one by one and feeling great. Then a coworker asks you to do something that you know will take time away from your own goals for the day. Before you say “yes,” stop and think! If you do it, you know you’ll either A) get home late or B) not be able to accomplish what you set out to do for the day.
Instead of feeling guilted into saying yes, you can simply say, “I would if I could but my plate is full today.” Don’t be someone’s dumping ground. Your time is just as valuable as the next person’s! If a coworker wants to cut out early for an event they will need to figure out a way to get their own work done on their own time. It doesn’t matter if they have kids and you don’t, if they are planning their upcoming wedding, if they have a special event to go to, etc. Everyone has the same number of hours in a day. They need to figure out a way to balance their life. Period. There are always exceptions of course. If someone is not feeling well or needs to get home to their sick mom I would absolutely help out. But not every day or for everyone. They can take it up with the manager to figure out a plan to make it work for themselves if need be.
Journaling in this way, or even just making a simple to-do list, will keep you on track. It may be shocking to you to realize how much time you spend away from your own goals to help everyone else. You will be amazed to see how much more productive you can be on the things you set your intention and mind on doing rather than doing for others. This is nothing to feel guilty about either. You should feel empowered to take control of your life this way.
Memento Mori means to remember that you’re mortal. You are one human being living this one life. Ask yourself how you want to spend it. If you want to devote your life to helping others and doing everything you can in every way you can no matter the cost to yourself or your own happiness then so be it. If you want to spend more time with your own kids or pursuing your own gifts, talents and hobbies, travel, work extra hard for a few years to pay off debts, start your own business, pursue a lifelong dream, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Back when I used to be everyone’s go-to person I had to ask myself what my personal goals were, what was I doing to accomplish them and how was I managing my time. In order to succeed, I had to stop picking up the slack for everyone else so they could live out their dreams. You do not need to be a martyr to be a good person.
Do you have trouble saying no? If you do, you may want to follow this blog because although I learned the hard way, I now love to empower people and share what has successfully worked for me.
Food for thought:
What are your personal goals?
What are you doing every day to get you closer to accomplishing them?
Are you spending time doing more for others than you are for yourself?
Have you learned and perfected the art of saying no gracefully?
Thank you for reading along.
May you be happy and well.