We are inundated with success stories. We feel the pressure to overachieve.  As we begin 2015,  we transfer that pressure into laundry lists of goals and end up making unconscious commitments. By the time March rolls around, getting out of bed becomes a daily struggle, certain phone calls are left unanswered…you know what I am talking about. Just because you are not excited about those projects anymore. Next thing you know, it’s December and now you have a laundry list of goals  has morphed into a long rant of shoulda-woulda-coulda’s.

I know. I think my friends would say that at some point in my life I was the poster-child for flaking out on so many  commitments.  Over the last year,  I have committed  myself to minimalistic lifestyle. No more McStuff! Ok. I am not saying that I want to be some of a hermit.  But I am want to get more out of life  by focusing on the essentials. I want more experiences and memories that bring me inner joy, peace and love and  not just accumulating stuff.   The only way that I have been able to start on this path is by using the magic word ” NO”. 

So reading Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism: The  Disciplined Pursuit of Less could not have been more timely.  If you are an INFP like me, you are probably having a hard time  making use of that magic word especially after you have already committed to something. Mr McKeown says that we should beware of the endowment effect:   If you feel that you own something you will have a sense of obligation towards it.

So  here are Greg’s remedies:

Pretend you don’t own it yet

Ask yourself:

  • What if I was not part of this venture or project, would I still want to get involved?
  • If I did not own this item, how much would I pay to obtain it?
  • How will I feel if I miss out on this opportunity?
  • How much would I be willing to sacrifice in order to obtain it?
  • If I wasn’t already involved in this project how would hard I work to get on it?

Get a  neutral opinion from someone whose is not emotionally involved in the situation and unaffected by the choice you make. This will give you the permission to stop forcing something that is clearly not working out

Get over the fear of waste (and FOMO):   Since we were children, we were taught to never waste anything especially food. We have carried that into adulthood and cannot bear the thought of abandoning anything especially after investing time and energy (read: blood, sweat and tears).   We feel that the psychological sunk costs are too high for us to let go of the investments.  However, the more we stick to those commitments, the more resources we are wasting. It is better to sever ties sooner rather than later.

Stop the casual commitments: You know those what I  am talking about. Someone tells you about a million shilling idea and you quickly jump on the bandwagon thinking you  need a piece of the action.  A few weeks down the line, you lose interest in the project or you become overwhelmed with  other more urgent items on your to-do list.  This year, simply pause before giving a  response to any sort of request. Ask for a 24-hour allowance to enable to think about it before responding. In the event that you get entangled, simply apologise for making commitments you didn’t really realise what they would entail.

Bonus: STOP flaking out! (Alexandra Franzen)

Run a reverse pilot: A few years ago, when the mobile phone industry in Kenya was still in its formative years, one of my mentors noted that he was reaching a lot to people in his personal network. So he decided to stop calling everyone. Well, except the most important people in his immediate family to see who really care about. For him, it was a litmus test to see who really cared about it. In a similar fashion, Claire Ortiz-Diaz declared  twitter bankruptcy by unfollowing E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E.  One of the reasons that she cites here, is that    probably interests  change over time, which to be totally honest,  is pretty part of human  nature.

Greg McKeown says, ” By quietly eliminating or at least scaling back on an activity for a few days or weeks you might be able to assess whether it is really making a difference or whether no one really cares”.


Related links:

99 ways to say NO  (Claire Ortiz-Diaz)

How to let purpose find you (Umair Haque -HBR)

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash

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