How to Keep From Messing Up Your Life

Recently I was invited to join an amazing new group, one that would get me in the same room with some big names in town.

We would gather together for five blissful meetings

I imagined the incredible people I’d meet, the stimulating discussions we’d have.

Oh, how they’d love me!

Then I learned the meetings would be held on Friday evenings.

Five of them. In a row.

And my heart sank.

Like many people, my business life takes off like a shot first thing on Monday morning, and continues at a rapid pace for five straight days.

I force myself to keep the energy high:

  • as I teach my classes and network at luncheons
  • as I partner with other organizations and run my own
  • as I write and I talk to everyone around me about their businesses…and mine

That energy stays up up up…right up to about 4:30 on Friday.

By then, it’s all used up. Gone. Kaput.

All that’s left is just enough energy to sit back and eat a bit of sushi at the Fish Market with Hubby before crashing on the couch at home.

And so as amazing as this new group sounded, as tempted as I was to join, I wasn’t sure I should. I was torn between the opportunity and what I knew to be true about myself.

There was only one way to make a decision.

I couldn’t think about how I felt right then.

I thought about the Deirdre of the future.

I pictured myself driving to that first meeting, my eyes growing bleary, my head achy.

The Deirdre of the future would not be excited. She would be tired, perhaps a bit cranky.

In fact, the Deirdre of the future might not be able to do it well at all.

When I thought about it that way the answer was obvious. And I said no.

All too often we make decisions, we commit to things, in the moment.

Even when we know they’re not the best thing for us, we tell ourselves we’ll be fine. We’ll figure out our schedules. We’ll get it all done somehow.  We’ll deal with the consequences.

But then…we actually have to live out our decisions. And we realize we’ve set ourselves up for problems.

  • We agree to attend a staff meeting the next morning at 8am, even though we know we need to drop the kids off at 7:50…and sure enough we wind up speeding stressfully up the highway at 7:56
  • We agree to sit on the office holiday party committee even though when we know November is our busiest time of the year…and sure enough we find ourselves staying late at work because we haven’t completed our projects
  • We say “yes” to delicious-looking piece of cheesecake even though we know we’re lactose intolerant…and sure enough we find ourselves…well…do I really need to say it?

Great leaders know that the trick to being more successful, not to mention happier, is to make decisions that set you up for success.

Which means making those decisions not just based on how you feel at the moment…

…but on how you’ll feel when you actually carry them out.

You need to picture the you of the future.

Here’s the thing.

You know yourself best.

  • You know what projects you like and what you really hate to do.
  • You know if you tend to procrastinate, over-commit, fail to manage your time
  • You know if you drive too fast, smoke too much, eat too little

You – and only you – have the power to use this knowledge to make good decisions for yourself.

As tempted as you are when you’re asked to participate in something you don’t have time for…when you want to engage in a habit you’re trying to break…when you want to put off a workout or an important task…

…as much as you feel like you can do it this one time and be fine…

Stop. And think about the you of the future.

Think about how you’ll feel when you have to live with the consequences.

Will it feel worth it then? Will you feel regret?

Think hard. Then make your decision.

And know that sometimes doing the best thing for the you of the future means letting other people down today.

And sometimes that has to be okay. Because, in the end, you want to be your best.

This week…as you make commitments, as you face temptation, as you struggle with decisions…think about the you of the future.

I promise, you’ll thank yourself later.

I did…just this past Friday, as I sat at the Fish Market eating sushi. And I knew there was no place I’d rather be.

Now, go do good…and do it well.

3 thoughts on “How to Keep From Messing Up Your Life

  1. Paola says:

    Great post and good for you! I agree! I learned this lesson a few years ago & no longer commit to (volunteer) serving on boards that meet on weekends or evenings. I had to. My current position includes a number of events I have to attend on weekends and evenings, so I work on lots of weekends. The weekends I don’t work are precious to me…to spend time with my hubby, family/friends, or simply enjoy my coffee on a Saturday morning while relaxing in my favorite chair at home. When I serve on a board, I like to be an active participant, so I explain to the person requesting I join their board or committee that as much as I would like to join, I wouldn’t be able to committ the required time necesarry to be an active member…but will support the organization/cause in other ways. They understand & appreciate the support I do provide. Jay has also helped me learn that it is ok to say no when my plate is way too full at work and I can’t take on more projects (and do them well) unless I work late multiple times per week.

  2. Tracy says:

    I completely agree. I have been working on this very thing since school started in the fall. The PTA, the team fundraisers, the other team’s fundraisers, the side-work for friends and family… I often feel obligated to volunteer for new projects outside of my regular work day. In the moment I wonder: who *will* if I don’t? But it’s important to recognize the right time to decline the offers and requests. “Free time” with family or even by ourselves is a necessity in this hectic world.

  3. Patricia Costa says:

    Thank you Deirdre for the reminder. Somehow there’s a little voice inside that makes me feel guilty when I say no. But I know that it’s just a “guilt” voice. If I don’t learn to take care of myself, I’m missing the whole point. In the busy world we live in, it seems we need to take quiet time or at least “nothing to do” time. And then what we do will mean more and be more effective.

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