(First Responders, Emergency Medical Staff, and Suicide Counselors Exempted)
Early in my career, my job tasks overwhelmed me on a daily basis, until a colleague’s remark changed my perceptions about work: “No one is going to die if you stop working for an hour to eat lunch with us.”
Too many people operate in survival mode, with elevated respiration and heart rates, cortisol and adrenaline pumping, and central nervous systems on high alert. In prehistoric times, living in such a state would be adaptive if it helped you avoid being eaten by a lion, but today, living in constant survival mode is unnecessary, drains energy, compromises physical and mental health, and limits performance. It is simply not sustainable over time.
I have met too many people who possess reliable, first-hand knowledge of how to effectively get things done at work, only to be stymied in the implementation. Ironically, they are the foremost experts, but lack authority or influence, so their superiors (with inferior expertise) dismiss their opinions, their knowledge lies dormant, and everyone loses.
I have worked with great people who burned out because their tendency toward helping others has led them to work too hard, unappreciated, with diminishing returns. These people carry a huge burden. Even when they understand intellectually that they are exceeding their role, and that the people they are trying to assist need to step up, they still can’t bear to let them struggle, because that would feel unhelpful. Their family upbringing, culture, religion, or personality may demand that they act as supportive to others as possible, and suffer guilt if they fail to accomplish this. Fortunately, a mild tweaking of perspective may allow people with accommodating tendencies to overcome this burden and find peace.
To be overly generous with time is not a virtue. This practice compromises health and cannot be sustained.
People seek my help for a variety of issues, but a majority of my clients all suffer from one common dilemma: they are too available. They often find themselves inundated with tasks and drowning in a river of requests, with no idea how they arrived at that point.
Some are natural givers who freely offer their time and assistance, which makes them feel good. Unfortunately, takers always outnumber givers and are happy to squeeze as many favors as they can. Others make themselves too available due to a sense of obligation or vulnerability. They perceive their status as shaky, so the thought of declining a request feels like a risk to their job, friendship, or relationship.