As I look at people with power in our society, I find myself less taken with what they have achieved, and far more interested in what they’ve sacrificed to get there.
What’s underneath the medal, the title, the face on the billboard, the money, the thousands or millions of followers, the specific claim to fame?
What kind of person are you?
What do you value?
What did you have to say ‘no’ to, in order to say ‘yes’ to this?
Then I wonder, was it worth it?
I think, deep down, there are a few things we’re all pursuing.
We want to love and be loved. We want to find a purpose to our lives, and often that comes from outside ourselves. We want to find fulfilment in how we spend our time. We want inner peace, whatever the hell that means.
I guess society is proof that there are nearly eight billion different ways to go about pursuing these things.
I’m not the only one conflicted about trying to find meaning in my work. The steps up the career ladder are incentivised for most, but workaholism is also socially venerated, leading to unhealthy expectations and balance. The optimum operating frequency that is insidiously glorified at work has limited space for generosity, creativity, kindness, or unscalable actions (i.e. relationships).
Many have realised this and reacted accordingly: they have handed in resignations, deciding that the world can teach them far more than a job can. Others have decided they are not buying into this, and are creating work environments that model what they value. Still others are chasing ikigai over wealth or social status (Google it, you’ll be glad you did).
As I start to learn what my boundaries are and what I value, it’s not just learning how to say ‘no’.
It’s learning that I don’t have to buy into the guilt that sits right on the tail of a ‘no’.
Boundaries are not sexy, not valued, not appreciated and often, not respected. Prioritisation often doesn’t make it into the conversation with achievers, because we’re so fixated on what they’ve actually done.
I’m not sure yet whether we find our boundaries by espousing them or experiencing them. I think I have a hunch though 🙂
Remember, though, underneath the accolades, awards, interviews, attention… there’s someone who learned how to say, ‘Not this, not today, not ever. Something else is more important.’
If you’re wondering what to say ‘no’ to, this is a pretty comprehensive list I’d recommend bookmarking.