Who’s calling the shots in your life?  The answer may surprise you.

The feeling of having lost control over ones time and energy utilization has reached epidemic proportions.  For many, it feels like someone else is in the driver’s seat…your job, your calendar, demands of family life, previous commitments that have taken on a life of their own. 

It’s hard to stomach being left out of the action.  This might be the biggest fear that drives our incessant need to “do.”  These days, disconnecting from “doing” is like trying to live without a cellphone or computer. But consider this:  now that people can reach us wherever we are – in the supermarket, on vacation, in the restroom, at the doctor’s office or the soccer field watching our child play – we tend to attach the same level of importance and urgency to things for which earlier generations had to wait a few hours or days. 

Today, to succeed in business, you’re expected to network, connect, deliver results quickly, think outside the box and beat the competition to the finish line.  The truth is, the finish line is an Illusion.  If you think that once this project is done, you can finally take time to focus on yourself, you‘re likely mistaken.  To devote the necessary time to one project, you have to put other projects off.  So, as soon as you complete this project, those responsibilities that were laying in wait are lined up like airplanes ready for takeoff.

So, if you really want to know who’s calling the shots in your life, the answer is YOU ARE. You’re making decisions every minute of every day that define how you spend your time and energy, that determine the activities to which you say, “Yes,” and drive your levels of angst and anxiety level.  

Have you considered that you might be acting out of fear?  Fear that you won’t be valued or seen as a successful and responsible member of the team.  Fear that you won’t be a good-enough parent if you don’t allow your child to participate in everything he asks to.  Or fear that if you don’t say, “Yes” to that project or opportunity, your career will suffer.

In my book “LIES That Limit,” I offer a “4-Step Test For Truth” that can help you avoid overcommitting out of fear, anxiety, or limiting LIES – Labels, Illusions, Excuses and Stories – that live in your head and propel you toward a self-destructive pattern of over-committing and over-doing.

Here’s how the 4-Step Test for Truth works:  as you face any situation and need to respond, ask yourself these 4 questions.

  1. Is the action I’m about to take based on fear or any other negative emotion?
  2. Will what I’m planning to do be at all disrespectful or diminish stakeholders, or me? 
  3. Will the action I’m considering create or sustain unnecessary limitations for others, or for me? 
  4.  Will my actions inhibit my own healthy and productive self-expression or that of others? 

If you answer yes to any of these questions, reconsider your plan of action.  Most likely, what you’re about to do will ultimately hinder your success and harm relationships with stakeholders.  Instead of acting, keep looking for a better solution – one that demonstrates respect for the needs and interests of all involved, including you.  It will take longer to find a win-win solution, and placing earnest energy into finding what works well for everyone involved is an investment that will reap untold dividends.

And, of course, to learn more about my 4-Step Test for Truth, read LIES That Limit.