I bet you often find yourself settling for something you don’t quite want or like. Sometimes it will be something unimportant, maybe you’ll go along with having dinner at a restaurant you’re not keen on, or seeing a film you don’t really fancy. Other times it will be big and serious, life affecting even – to do with your job or partner, maybe. We all put up with stuff, all the time but we really should be careful about when and why we settle for something that’s not quite right.
I’ve had a lot of visitors this summer and that’s what got me thinking about the choices we make and the crap we put up with. I love them all dearly but there is one sort of guest who drives me to distraction. The conversation goes something like this:
‘Would you like a cuppa?’
‘Tea or coffee?’
‘I’m easy, whatever you’re making.’
‘I can do either, what would you prefer?’
‘Tea. Oh no, wait. Whatever you’re having,’
*blood pressure rising* ‘I’m having coffee.’
‘Lovely. 2 sugars please. *hesitates* Oh no. Wait, actually, I usually have tea at this time. Is that OK?’
‘Are you sure? I don’t want to be a bother.’
‘It’s no bother at all.’
‘Are you sure? I feel like I’m putting you out. I can have a coffee if it’s easier.’
And on and on it goes until the tea is on the table. There’s a sip and then ‘That’s lovely, but I would have had a coffee to save you making different drinks.’ *my head explodes*
It’s the same with lunch, going out for a walk, watching something on telly, setting goals – all sorts of decisions. Certain rellies, friends, colleagues and clients just will not tell me honestly what they want to eat, drink or do and it drives me up the wall. Why? Because I want them to have or do something they’ll enjoy, and if they tell me what they want it takes the pressure off me. All I have to do is comply!
If you genuinely don’t care whether you have tea or coffee that’s fine of course, but I’m yet to meet someone indifferent to that particular question. The truth is that, not wanting to be a bother, or put someone out, we often just go along with things we really don’t want to do. So we spend our lives putting up with inadequate hot drinks, dodgy tv programmes, relationships that don’t quite work and jobs that we’re not happy with. This must stop.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with telling someone what you want, with speaking up. It’s not aggressive or selfish in any way. You matter, and your needs and wants, however simple, are just as valid as anyone else’s. I’ll say that again: YOUR NEEDS AND WANTS ARE AS VALID AS THE NEXT PERSON’S.
While many people are very happy with the path they’ve chosen, or ended up on, I often see clients who are torn between what they want to do and what they feel they should be doing. The ‘should’ usually involves other people – their family, colleagues and friends. People they always, always put first while feeling frustrated and unfulfilled by the choices they are making. And then they also feel guilty because they feel frustrated and unfulfilled. This breaks my heart. I hate wasted potential, yet there are thousands, maybe millions, of talented, creative, inspiring people not fulfilling their potential because they feel they can’t for some reason.
Well, I have good news for you. Having a rewarding career does not make you a bad parent. If you think about it it’s likely to make you a better one, because you’re stimulated, challenged and, yes, happier. Going for a promotion does not mean you’re abandoning your team. You’re showing them the way and can help them fly too. Leaving the family business does not mean you’re giving up on the collective dream. It means you’ve realised that want to try something different and challenge yourself. And by moving on instead of stewing, you’re making way for someone with the right blend of talent and enthusiasm to take things forward.
Putting others first can be a hard habit to break, so start small. The next time you’re asked what you want please do me, and yourself, a favour and just come out with it. Forget the mindreading and second-guessing what anyone else might be thinking or feeling and just make a choice. Watch what happens. I promise you that the world won’t end because you favour tea over coffee or want to watch the Scandi drama on BBC4 rather than Match of the Day. It’s OK to want something different, honest, and a good coach can help you get it in a way that feels right for you. Give it a try. Click here to book a 15 minute, no obligation chat about how I might be able to help you.