For years I spent most of my waking hours doing what was expected of me rather than what I truly wanted to do. I like to think of myself as a strong and independent woman, but somehow I was driving my life following the roadmap of others’ requirements rather than my own. Was I alone in this? I know I was not.
Over time I learned to check in with myself more often, to do a better job listening to my inner voice. This helped a lot and my life seemed more balanced. But still, I frequently found myself at parties, dinners, and events where I did not truly care to be. “Oh well,” I would think, “Life is a series of lessons and there must be some reason why I’m here.”
Several months ago, having learned many of life’s lessons in places I would rather have avoided, I was driving to a dinner commitment after work. I tried to remember why I had accepted this invitation. Oh yes…one of my friends thought I should meet an acquaintance of hers because we had “so much in common.” My friend wasn’t planning to join us for dinner, so with my car idling in a long stream of traffic I wondered why I had agreed to devote a free evening to this. You know the answer – it’s obvious. I did not want to disappoint my friend. It meant a lot to her to make this connection between two women she believed should get to know each other.
That night I vowed to begin asking myself a very simple question before doing anything that required more than a few minutes of my time — “Do I really, really want to do this?” (Please trust me. One “really” is not enough.)
I now ask myself this question many times throughout the day. Many times. There are times, of course, when the answer is ‘No!” and I have to do it anyway. But more often than I would have imagined, when the answer is “No!” I can free myself to do something that I truly want to do, something that I consider more important, more interesting, more fun, more fill-in-the-blank-with-a-positive-descriptor. I am happier because of this simple question. It connects me with what I am thinking and feeling, and it helps me focus my precious time where I believe it is best spent. And when I must do something that I do not really, really want to do, at least I am aware of my resistance and what it costs me. This, too, has been a big help.
So may I suggest that the next time you are about to invest a chunk of your priceless time on something, you ask yourself “Do I really, really want to do this?”
11 thoughts on “Asking “Do I really, really want to do this?””
What a great post Sharon! It is a good question to ask oneself. I agree. I should do it more often myself! As I soon approach my 60th birthday, I too find myself pleasing others too often. Still!! You think by the age of almost 60 one would be better about this. But life is a journey and I have learned many lessons along the way that have been amazing and useful. This one is tougher because we are often reared to please others in our families of origin. It is often such a strong message too. It is so important to learn boundaries. It is a process and I agree, the first part of the process is recognizing that the question needs to be asked. Good work Sha!
Thanks very much for taking the time to comment, Pam. I love your reminder about the importance of learning (and setting) boundaries. I appreciate your candor and insight — thank you for sharing your perspective!
Hi Sharon –
I love your blog post and I agree that the extra “really” makes a difference!!!
As women we carry a heavy load (mostly from burdens we place on ourselves). One of these burdens is our desire to be liked by EVERYONE. We fear saying “No” and overcommit only to find ourselves frazzled, stressed, etc. I wanted to share with your readers an experiment I tried to do only what I loved (and say no to everything else). I learned some interesting lessons.
Keep the good work going!
Thanks so much, Henna! I just read the results of your experiment to do only what you loved for an entire week. Very interesting and valuable lessons for all of us, and I love your commitment to the experiment. Thank you for sharing with is.
I am in a new phase of life, after a long, wonderful career in business. I am developing my creative side professionally. As I made the transition , I slowly began to experience choosing what I would and wouldn’t do each day. Wow, what an absolute joy that was and is. I realize that my much of my adult life I did what I “had to” do versus what I wanted to do. I was scheduled in meetings from 8 to 6 pm and had an internal drive that’s hard to explain. Well, it’s been about 18 months since I have begun this change and I don’t think I could ever go back to that life style. The stress and strain I experienced physically in my professional life is more apparent to me now, as I reflect. I am healthier and calmer and more at peace, while still dealing with the surprises that life throws one.
Another learning, I am beginning to experience is more familial based than career based. That learning is about doing what is expected of me by others at a personal level. This is another area where I again didn’t even have a conscious choice. The strong disapproval, I would receive was so built in, I just was a “good girl” and did as I “should”. I am slowly experiencing the freedom of making my own choices in this arena as well. I have some strained relationships as a result, but I am willing to pay that price to be true to myself and to learn who “I” really am. None of the above is easy… but I believe it the right path for me…
Thank you very much for openly sharing your experiences and perspective, CRW. How wonderful to read the words “absolute joy” when you write about the experience choosing what you would and wouldn’t do each day. Thanks for encouraging us all.
Sharon, thank you for sharing this blog post. It is so true. The one point I would like to
contribute is the following: When I do things I don’t “really, really” want to do, I find I am not
really “there”. I am checking my watch, waiting to get to something I do want to do. So, when
faced with the decision about whether or not to accept, it becomes easier when I think that
if I accept I am not really giving the person what they deserve of me either.
It just makes saying “no”, a little easier!
What an excellent point, Irene. Thanks very much for sharing this way of looking at the commoitments we don’t really, really want to make. You are so right, it will make it easier to say “No” because that’s what is best for everyone. Thank you for reframing this for us!
After reading your blog, I’m so grateful for this topic and the wisdom in each response. I too am learning this lesson which has manifested itself physically…I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia last year and anytime I do too much or get too stressed it results in pain. I used to be a “human-doing” and now my lesson on letting go is teaching me how to be a “human-being”.
Katy, thank you very much for so openly sharing your experience. Thanks, too, for the important reminder about being versus doing – I still have much to learn about that. Sending love and gratitude to you and to everyone for the insightful comments.
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