The “Too-Well Lived” Life? – What To Do When You’re Overfull

The "Too-Well Lived" Life? What To Do When You're Overfull

Some topics arise for me when I hear multiple clients talking about the same thing, or I see them “out there” in the world and in our culture. Other topics, like today’s, live near and dear to my heart and keep coming up for me so it’s time to take some reflection time to explore it here with you.

How do you say no to the “good opportunities” and why should you?

It’s easy to understand the need to stand up for yourself and say “no” to commitments or people’s requests that you don’t have time for and honestly, don’t even want to do. Chaperone my son’s school camping trip 6 hours away? “Sorry I can leave my other kids!” Clean-up after the school carnival? “My schedule is already booked!” 5:30 am boot camp with friends? “I’m just not an early morning riser!” Despite how hard it can be to disappoint others and actually say no, my guess is that you too can find effective ways to extricate yourself from burdensome requests and to-dos.

The real challenge is saying no to the great opportunities . . .

I find the easy first step is to evaluate – is this an attractive option or not? If not – keep on moving. But lately I’ve found myself inundated with work, people, and situations I adore. How do you choose among a plethora of fabulous options? How do you not overeat at cruise ship buffets overflowing with gorgeous fruits and eye-catching desserts?

I think for many of us, there is a true sadness to realizing that we can’t do all the great things we want to. Perhaps we will never live abroad . . . or play the guitar. . . or learn to speak Spanish fluently. Maybe we actually won’t cross off everything on our bucket list. But I’ve come to believe strongly that that is no longer an indicator of a life well lived.

In fact, with all the plethora of activities at our finger tips these days – learning new courses with online MOOCS, jumping on a plane to exotic locales, learning new languages through an app while we commute – it’s easy to believe that because we can, we should.

Here’s the rub I’ve found. The more “good stuff” we cram into our days, our weeks, our lives – the less enjoyment we have. We’re so busy running from new opportunity to new opportunity that we rarely take the time to savor the pleasures we had anticipated.

Here’s my new first step from over-busy to mindful fulfillment – feel free to take what works for you – or find your own tiny steps forward.

  • When many more of my days have the quality of rushing instead of the quality of savoring – it’s time to find one scheduled thing to remove/re-evaluate/resist.
  • I take a look at my calendar of the past two weeks and think – is there something here that initially seemed like a great idea but isn’t as “fun/useful/worthwhile” as I thought? (Looking at your to-do list can often produce similar insights.)
  • Then I ask: How soon can I stop? What can I renegotiate? How can I make a graceful exit?
  • Followed by: what new opportunity am I considering that is probably best left until a later date?

If you keep living at a frenetic pace in the here and now, yet don’t want to turn down great chances – consider this cold hard fact:

You will never do all the amazing things in life that you could do. But that doesn’t mean you won’t live an amazing life.

If you could truly accept that – what might wait until later. . . or never?

Want me to hold you personally accountable?
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Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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