If I ask you what rules you follow, you might say:
- Don’t lie, cheat or steal.
- Be kind to old people, children and animals.
- Obey the golden rule and the Ten Commandments,
All good rules to follow.
But what are the hidden rules you follow?
Whether you realize it or not you and everyone else obeys hidden rules. Rules that represent good advice, until…they don’t.
Sally (not her real name) was a highly accomplished, highly exhausted forty-something, who came to last weekend’s Discover Your YIPPEE Retreat hoping to discover new career opportunities. What she discovered along the way was far more powerful!
One of the retreat exercises helps you identify your characteristics – hard-working, determined, patient, persistent, loyal… It’s exciting to embrace all those strong parts of yourself. And yet, hiding in these characteristics are rules about BEING hard-working, determined, patient, persistent, loyal… The trouble comes when we come to believe we must ALWAYS be a certain way, regardless of circumstances.
Sally described herself as a finisher. Whatever she started? She finished. I’m not sure I can say I’ve finished my current job and frankly I can’t move on until I do, even though I desperately want to do something else.
“Do you finish every book you start?” I asked.
“Even if you don’t like it?”
“Yes, even if I don’t like it!”
“Do you ever partially unload the dishwasher or wait until the next day to finish cleaning up the kitchen?”
“Never and never!” A smile began to break on her face.
“Why do you think that is?”
“I’m not sure when it started,” Sally told me. “But it just seems like not finishing is the same thing as quitting.”
The reason we get stuck is that we assume there are only two options. In Sally’s case: quitting or finishing.
The truth is ‘to quit’ or ‘to finish’ is not an either/or choice. There is a continuum of choices between always quitting and always finishing. The dilemma is that we often only see two choices and we associate shame, judgment and guilt with one of them.
Never mind that the purpose, pleasure or logic of finishing no longer existed for Sally, she couldn’t break her rule.
During the Discover Your YIPPEE retreat, she realized she could choose to stop doing something that didn’t make sense. And that didn’t make her a quitter. It made her a wise woman who was able to discern when enough is enough.
Your issue may not be Sally’s. It could be about generosity and selfishness. Do you feel like you must ALWAYS give up what you want or you will be selfish? What about hard-working and lazy? Some people feel they must work all the time or they will be lazy.
You get the picture. So what to do? And how do you even find the places where you might be giving yourself an ultimatum.
EXERCISE: Identify Your Either/Or Choices
- Write down five adjectives that describe your strengths.
- What is the opposite of that strength?
- Now make a sentence:
If I’m not ______________(say the strength) then I’m____________. HINT: If you put a critical or negative word in the second blank then you have identified your either/or.
- Remember it really isn’t either/or so start practicing, try moving toward doing less sometimes of the thing you do all the time.
In Sally’s case, she’s going to explore the new career options she identified. She’s learned there are some things better left unfinished and that doesn’t mean she’s a quitter.
What’s your either/or? Let us know in the comment section below.
Until Tuesday. YIPPEE!
If you’d like a chance to work with me on your either/or choices and lots of other stuff, come to the Discover Your YIPPEE Retreat Feb 28 – Mar 1. Early bird discounts available through December.