As my brother and I were talking about what motivates people, he said “it’s simple right, some people get their energy from doing things that would make others feel drained.” Right. It’s one of the basics of the way we are each wired.
In theory, as we all derive our energy from different things, you’d think there would be no opportunity for us to get bored or resentful or depressed in the world by things that we do, instead there are endless opportunities to fill our cups. So why are so many of us doing things that deplete rather than refuel our energy?
As I’ve cited many times before, the number one regret of the dying is all the time they wasted in life trying to please others. With my mum’s death recently it’s reaffirmed my commitment to spend time doing the things that matter to me, and trust that any gaps I leave will be ably filled by others who love what I hate.
When I left the corporate world a few years ago, I remember vowing to myself that I was done dancing to the beat of another’s drum. No more mind-numbing meetings, having to cross and uncross my legs, or waggle my foot around just to stay awake. No more politically correct conversations or being nice to people who were just downright nasty. That was the idea.
Like many of you, there are things that I do that are not high on my list. I try and be mindful though about not making compromises and making myself miserable when I have a choice. For example, for those of you who have read my musings over the years, you’ll know a perennial issue for me is our annual School Fair.
When we joined the school, I eyed the sentence (on the commitment form we had to sign) about supporting fundraising activities with suspicion. When I queried it, I was told “oh it’s nothing to worry about. The only thing you really need to do is to help with the School Fair each year, each family has to do 4 hours on the stalls and bake cakes etc”. Mmm. Big understatement that was.
The Fair, it turns out, is a big community event attracting thousands of visitors. It’s not just a few bake stalls. There are lots of good old fashioned fun activities like candle dipping, a coconut shy, a flying fox, a ‘stack-a-crate’ climbing challenge and other interesting games like the lemonade bike.
Then there’s the centre stage entertainment, the crafts (it’s the parents who make all the crafts to sell and there are rather onerous specifications and quantities), the food stalls, the rubbish and zero-waste management, the car parking, on and on.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots to love about the school my kids attend. Most importantly, it’s packed with staff who really give a lot to the roles they are performing. The head teacher is passion personified when it comes to the children and the education they are providing.
But I’m under no illusions; the Fair is a big project. I have enough experience of projects under my belt in the corporate realm to know the size of this job. For me, just the thought of it drains my cup so fast you’d think it was a sieve with 5cm holes in it. Equally, I know there are others who thrive doing this kind of thing.
Now I have no real idea why the Fair has come to be run the way it has but, however it has come about, it’s become practice for Class 2 parents to organize the whole thing – and guess which class my daughter is in this year?
It may be that the Fair was initially the brainchild of a dedicated group of parents, or at some point it all got too much for staff worn out by the myriad of other activities throughout the year. Regardless, at some point since the inception of the Fair, someone decided it would be a good idea to have Class 2 parents organize it all.
So do I have to buy into this? The school has never been explicit about this onerous task, yet here it is.
Should I ’suck it up’ because others have? Or should I expect to contribute because it’s a worthy cause? Whatever the reason, trying to push a boulder uphill is never a great idea. For my part, organizing the Fair is simply too much to ask; it’s too draining, taking too much mental, emotional and physical energy away from my focus on parenting especially, never mind the other hats I wear.
What I do know is that I have no specific obligation to take part in this project, other than perhaps peer pressure created, in the main, from others’ perceptions that they have no choice.
Yet the parents do have a choice, as does the school. It’s perhaps better to cast the net wider and, rather than expecting a set of 26 parents in one class to take on 25 different and sizeable project roles, allow those in the wider community - who might actually feel like they want to (and have the capacity to) take on these roles - to come forward.
We are all motivated by different things, so you’d think there would be no shortage of willing volunteers for everything that takes place in our world. And there is, there are those that love this type of stuff, so why – as in so many walks of life – are people trying to decree how things happen and perpetuate it just because it’s become the norm?
There was an article I wrote last year, called Win-Win-Win Giving, talking about how giving is something that should be about ease and joy, not sacrifice and duty. The win-win-win stuff, when you inspire or empower someone doing something you love, and get the warm fuzzies from having helped.
At what point do we say ‘enough is enough’ if it’s how we feel? How many examples are there like this in your own life, where you are dancing to the beat of another’s drum? Where you are trying to be superman or superwoman, instead of realizing that less is more?
Yes we may face peer pressure, and perhaps pressure from other quarters, but really, the most pressure we put on ourselves comes from within. Our own desire to look good, to fit in, to have others think well of us.
Instead of being a martyr to something where we’d rather be poking our eyes out with a pin, we need to learn to step aside; there are others who would get a lot out of taking up the mantle. And if there isn’t, one would have to question the need for the task anyway.
It’s not that I want to see our School Fair fail, I want to see it thrive. Rather than walk around with an all too visible “I survived the Fair” attitude for the rest of our children’s primary and intermediate school years, I know the best way forward is to let those who want to take up the reins and lead the way with energy and enthusiasm go for it. Sometimes the best thing we can do is simply to get out of their way.
We have been born with unique desires, talents and traits that can serve this world in so many ways. Instead of trying to be a square peg in a round hole just because we think the world needs us to be, how about we each take that square peg and inspire the heck out of others by finding the best 4 corners to fit it in?
I’d love for you to like, comment on, or share these thoughts with others if they inspire, or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m always happy to help if I can. To be the first to receive these posts, you can also subscribe to my newsletter and, as a special thank you, you will receive the link to my video 3 Steps to Becoming You.
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