I drove into a parking lot on my way to a conference. The parking tickets came in a dispensing machine that required $ 5.00 and gave no change. A man approached me who wanted change for $ 20.00. I explained I only had a $ 10.00 bill. Then I noticed that the machine also took $ 10.00 bills. “Here,” I offered, “I’ll get one for you too.” “No.” He said. ” I can’t let you do that.” “It’s no problem.” I offered. “I’d be happy to.” “No thanks.” He replied curtly. “I’d rather wait.” With that, he walked away.
How often, I wondered do we say no to help when it is offered because it does not came in the form we think it should? How often do we say no because we have to control the situation?
Later that afternoon, I met with a new client, Cindy, who had been struggling to get her own business off the ground for over a year while working full time. “I can’t believe it’s taking me so long!” She complained. “Something always comes up and I can’t get anything done. I should have been able to handle this on my own, but I don”t seem to be able to.” She had met with me a year earlier and decided she didn’t need coaching. Now here she was a year later with little progress to show for her efforts. She was frustrated. After all, she should have been able “to do it on her own.”
Why do we feel we ought to do things on our own?
Independence can be overrated. Of course, it is important to learn to stand on your own two feet. That is an important part of our journey from childhood to adulthood. But independence has been elevated to cult status in our culture. Perhaps true maturity lies in our recognition that we are interdependent. When we work cooperatively, allowing ourselves to learn from someone else and be contributed to, we can actually achieve more than we can on our own.
Are you stressed out and overwhelmed? Asking for help is a surefire stress reliever. Consider how much energy you spend trying to handle everything on your own. Giving up that control; delegating and letting go of having it done your way, frees up energy for something else. It also means setting aside the illusion that we have all the answers ourselves. We have to be willing to really listen and be open to learning new ways of doing things.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to asking for help is the attachment we feel to the image of ourselves that we seek to project. Most of us see and present ourselves in a certain way. We have an image that we strive to maintain and we avoid actions that could risk that image.
Cindy had an image of herself as an entrepreneur; someone who is a self-starter and can handle everything on her own. Her story is that the only thing that stands in the way of her dream is lack of time and too many commitments. Creating a schedule of accountability through working with a coach would mean she would risk discovering the discrepancy between her image and the reality. It is uncomfortable to confront this gap. It takes courage and commitment to risk being exposed.
It also takes courage to ask for help and to risk looking bad, foolish or less capable. It takes a strong commitment to getting your life on track to risk public opinion and reveal your weaknesses. Yet, asking for help also makes life easier. It frees up time and energy that can be used in more productive ways. You get more accomplished, in less time, with greater ease.
How often do you say no to help when it is offered because it does not come in the form you think it should?
Do you say no because you have to control the situation?
To what extent are you avoiding asking for help because it does not fit the image you have of yourself or want to protect?
Do you do things on your own so you do not appear foolish, weak or inadequate?
Here are some simple strategies to become more effective:
1. Ask for help and reduce stress!
2. Accept help when it is offered. Even if you can do it yourself.
3. Be willing to let go of your image and risk looking bad, weak or foolish in order to get the help you need.
4. Create a support team and draw on their strengths and abilities. Use mentors, a mastermind group, strategic partners or professional help.
Advertisers keep promoting the idea that “we can have it all” and yet often life belies that. Maybe, having it all means that we are not meant to do it all. Maybe, having it all lies in our ability to ask for and receive help. Maybe when we give up the illusion that we can do it all on our own, we finally get to have it all.