The comments in response to this post (there were 20 of them!) were pretty funny to read through. Some were encouraging, like a former student who said, "People ask you for help cause your AWESOME!!!" Some were a little more pointed, such as the family member who said, "Build a bridge and get over it..." Others were empathetic, along the lines of a friend from church who responded, "I had that too!" And still others were just a little weird, like a college friend who suggested, "Just duct tape your thumbs down and explain it can't be down without opposable thumbs." (I love that last one...)
I'm reflecting back, trying to remember exactly what the context was. I know I was serving as Technology Coordinator in a K-8 school at that time, and given that it was nearing the first day of school, I suspect this was in response to a whole slew of, "Hey, Dave...can you help me a minute with ________?"
There were a lot of those kinds of questions, honestly. And it's in my nature to try and be helpful. This comes out of a sense of obligation to doing excellent work at my professional commitments, sure. But, when I'm honest about it, it's also partly out of a drive to want people to think highly of me, to see me as some kind of Superman who can swoop in to save the day.
That's insidious, isn't it? But, as I've written before (here and here), the challenge for me is that if I can do something, it's often a quick slide to I should do something. When people come asking for my help and I can help, does that automatically mean I should do the thing they are asking me to do?
I'm not Superman. I cannot do all of the things. I should not do all of the things.
And yet...there is this awful pull for me that somehow I feel like I'm letting people down if I don't.
So this year, I'm practicing saying "no." I am working on making my default response to requests a kind, gentle "no." After four crazy years of grad school while working full time, my hope is that I'll be able to better prioritize in my life. By saying "no" to most things--even the good things--I'll be better able to say "yes" to things that I really need to devote my attention toward, and be excellent at those things. Call it a year of Sabbath...or a Year of Jubilee, even.
So, if you ask me to help out and I say "no," please don't be offended. It's not you. It's just that I'm not Superman. :-)
|Image by Cia Gould. [CC BY 2.0]|