Are you sure that was appropriate?

Have you ever committed yourself to something that you probably shouldn’t have?

It could be a simple thing like. . . agreeing to bake cookies for the office party when you hate baking. Now you’re stuck in the kitchen (which you hate), missing out on family time, and up past your bedtime because you put it off as long as possible (not to mention the extra trip to the grocery store).

June pic #1Before too long, you find yourself resentful of the cookies, the office, the party and anybody else associated with making this activity happen. The worst part is, you know that you could have easily avoided this situation if you had simply said, “I would rather bring the beverages.”

You see, you made an inappropriate commitment.  When I say “inappropriate commitment,” I mean committing yourself to something that is not in alignment with the things that matter most to you.

Learning to recognize and curtail inappropriate commitments becomes crucial in government service. A bad night of baking cookies may not be such a big deal, but accepting a two-year position overseas that is not an ideal fit when your parents are ailing, for example, can become a very big deal very quickly. In this case learning how to say “No” to an inappropriate commitment is vital.

When we concede our needs and take on commitments that are not in alignment with our priorities, we end up feeling resentful and burned out. Obviously that’s not the way to bring your best self to work (or home), and it’s not the way to bring your greatest gifts into the world.

When you find that you are in danger of making an inappropriate commitment, here are Four things you can do. . . 

1. Avoid Making Inappropriate Commitments in the First Place

Get clear on what matters most to you and deliberately choose to create your life so you can support the things that are most important. Practice saying “No” lovingly. Remember, the word “No” delivered lovingly is a complete sentence. Having said that, even with our best efforts, sometimes we have previous commitments that we made before we were clear that they were inappropriate. In that case…

2. Ask to Renegotiate

A true leader will recognize when he has made an inappropriate commitment and ask to renegotiate it. It may be something as simple as approaching a supervisor and saying, “I recognize that things have shifted and this job is no longer an ideal fit for me. I will absolutely continue to fulfill my commitments as best as I can, and will you support me as we look for a position where I am better suited?”

I will tell you, the majority of supervisors are over the moon excited when their employees come to them with a conversation like this. Let’s face it: if you’re in a job that’s not a great fit for you, you’re not fooling anybody!

3. Continue to Fulfill Your Commitment as Best You Can

If you ask to renegotiate the commitment and the answer is “No,” then you continue to fulfill that responsibility as best you can.

This one is a little bit challenging because it means that you have to be gentle with yourselfNo berating yourself for making a commitment that isn’t in line with your priorities, and no beating up the office or the supervisor or the colleagues. You were the one that made the commitment, so no whining or complaining! Continue to do your best work and seek opportunities to renegotiate.

4. Circle Back to Step One

Avoid making inappropriate commitments in the first place. Work to get even more clear on what matters to you. Specifically define your personal evidence of success and make decisions that will lead you closer to that evidence. Over time you will either complete or renegotiate the previous inappropriate commitments replacing them with ideal commitments that you can’t wait to fulfill.

Do you know someone who needs to read this? Please share it with them.

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