I blew an hour this morning trying to figure out how I could be in two places at once, only to realize what I was desperately trying to avoid was disappointing someone. Making commitments is a natural part of life. Whether it’s committing to a job, a relationship, or a group (choir, book club, etc.), we all have responsibilities that must be fulfilled. However, sometimes these commitments can become overwhelming, leading you into a spiral of expectations that can’t be met. This is particularly challenging when others are depending on you to deliver, and you don't want to let them down. So, how do you get out of this spiral and regain control of your commitments?
To begin, take a step back and evaluate the situation. It’s important to recognize it’s okay to re-evaluate your commitments and make changes when necessary. You need to be honest with yourself about whether or not you’re capable of fulfilling all the expectations you’ve set for yourself, or whether you need to adjust those expectations to something more realistic (so you don’t have to be in two places at once). Remember, over-commitment often means someone gets disappointed somewhere – continuing to try and meet the expectations you created through over-commitment means it’s either yourself (sacrificing your happiness and wellbeing), or you drop the ball (because you’re over-extended) and disappoint someone else. Recognizing you’ve over-committed is important not just to set other people’s expectations, but to meet them as well.
This means having some difficult conversations, but it’s important to be honest and transparent about what you can and can’t do. By communicating your limitations, you work together to find a solution that works best for everyone. Remember, the people you make commitments to respect you, and if they don’t you were never going to meet their expectations anyway, so re-negotiating what’s possible is always a good option.
It’s also important to prioritize your commitments. You can’t do everything all at once, so it’s essential to identify what’s most important to you and focus on those commitments first. By doing this, you reduce the pressure you feel to meet all of your commitments as quickly as possible. As the saying goes “The journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step” (Lao Tzu).
The most important commitment you make is taking care of yourself. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s easy to neglect your own needs as a way to meet other people’s expectations. But by taking time for yourself when you need to, you recharge and regain the energy needed to fulfill your commitments. To do less means you may run out of energy long before your commitments are done, and that’s when you start forgetting things and making mistakes (like scheduling yourself to be in two places at the same time).
Navigating yourself out of a commitment/expectation spiral requires honesty, communication, prioritization, and making your needs important. Remember, you’re only human and it’s okay to re-evaluate your commitments when you realize you’ve over-extended yourself. Recognizing I was never going to successfully be in two places at once I made a priority call, and then initiated a discussion to re-negotiate the second commitment. In the end it was the best call and meant things worked out better then if I’d tried to fit it all in. By taking these steps, you can regain control of your commitments and your life, reducing the stress and pressure that comes with trying to make everyone (but yourself) happy.