Last week I was asked to join yet another committee. I told the inquiring gentleman that I would think about it for a couple of days, after which I politely declined.
“I am very cautious about becoming over-committed,” I explained, but he still seemed somewhat disappointed.
It’s happened to me before – over-doing it with outside activities – and it’s not pretty: the running around every night of the week; the burnout; being spread so thin that I’m not much good to anyone, for anything.
So I don’t care any more if I let someone down once in a while. They’ll get over it.
In fact, this has become a common occurrence lately, me saying no, and I’m getting quite used to it. With a demanding job and full family schedule already on the plate, there are only a select few extracurricular activities worthy of carving out slices of time. I serve on a couple of Boards, I do part-time editorial work at The High Calling, I love blogging (of course – but that, too, has its limits), and I participate in a couple of church programs.
That is quite a lot.
It amazes me, though, the people I observe who don’t seem to be familiar with that word, “No,” who take on every committee and board and non-profit venture that the community has to offer. I see them, these take-charge sort of folks, with their sticky hands in just about everything, juggling meetings and minutes and fundraiser extravaganzas right alongside their work and home lives.
It looks quite impressive, but I honestly don’t know how they do it.
They seem to be quite nonplussed by all this churn and activity. Who knows? Maybe they are even charged up by it. But, seriously, it just doesn’t seem healthy.
I wonder if there may be some more subtle motivators at work here.
1. The need to be liked.
Contributing your gifts and charms to a needy organization is a sure-fire way to make friends who are ever-grateful for your time and leadership skills. Saying ‘No’ is not.
2. The insatiable need for significance.
Sometimes the scope of responsibility at the workplace just isn’t enough. You need more to manage, more people to lead, more bodies to line up behind your fabulous vision. Plus, it’s flattering to be asked to participate in a high-visiblity committe, or to hear, “Hey, we were thinking that you were just the kind of talent our group needs!” Not only do you get to name-drop your involvement with these organizations, but you get some good press out of it sometimes, too.
3. Escaping home life
Being busy allows you to avoid your spouse and children. All of that messy intimacy and sharing of conversation and cleaning up around the house can be so much work, right? Keeping super-busy is an easy ticket out. Plus, it’s so honorable, too! It’s much easier to keep busy with committees and non-profits than to face the hard work of being present for the family.
4. Distraction from facing your inner self.
The sense of self-importance that comes from over-committing can take up most of the space inside one’s head, leaving little room for reflection or personal growth. But this is exactly how some folks prefer things.
So, if everyone is itching for a piece of you, congratulations. But don’t think for a minute that you’re fooling anyone.
Photo by Nance Marie.