When it comes to being an effective leader I think it is very important to realize your limitations, and avoid overextending yourself. When I first became a teacher I tried to participate, lead, and be involved with everything I could get my hands on. I was constantly overextending myself to the point where I could no longer fulfill all of the obligations I had signed myself up for. I offered to go to my students’ after school sporting events, help with a tutoring program, and worked with several leadership committees at my school.
I instantly had a difficult time keeping up with all of the tasks I volunteered for. I became drained, and struggled to find energy to keep up with it all. I called this “zombie mode,” as I dragged my drained and tattered self from meeting to meeting. I never had the time or energy to put my full effort into these commitments, and I began to get frustrated at my own weakened contributions.
I tried to make everyone around me happy, but I became rather flakey as I continued to ice-skating uphill in order to fulfill my promises. I kept saying yes to everything, desiring to be a great team player, leader, and helper to everyone around me. I became frustrated and annoyed at myself for constantly letting people down, and for always overfilling my plate.
There is something very powerful about having the ability to tell people “no,” and it took me a few years to master this skill. Realizing your own capabilities and not overextending yourself is a difficult task to adjust to. At first I constantly felt that I was letting people down, but I soon realized that I was making myself more productive and efficient.
Rather than spreading myself so thin and diluting my efforts to minimal levels, I was now able to give my full concentration to the most important activities and tasks. Instead of just being a warm body in the room, people began appreciating the genuine efforts I was now able to give with this lightened schedule. I may no longer have been available to these help-seekers for every job, but they were happy to know that when I did sign up for something, I would make a great impact.
Instead of running ragged from one commitment to the next, I was now finding myself with extra time in which I could spontaneously help others or volunteer for things in these random moments of unplanned space. If for some reason the obligations I signed up for took longer than expected, I now had the flexibility to give more time to them without the added stress of other pressing commitments.
Although I have been working on this skill long before I ever learned anything about mindfulness, my meditations have reaffirmed and strengthened my ability to focus on the tasks and jobs that are most important. Mindfulness meditations have provided a time every day in which I can prioritize my thoughts and actions, and get the most from every minute of my schedule.
I am now a better team member, leader, and coworker. They now know that when I commit to something they will get my full, undistracted effort, and it has helped to build a stronger bond with the people around me.
Is it better to try to be everything to everyone? Or would you rather give your all to what you can? Dare to say “no,” now and then, and find out.