October 06, 2010

Overcommitment: A Happiness Killer

We often say yes because we want to make others happy and are afraid to admit we aren’t superhuman. Learn to say no, advises Marshall Goldsmith

What kills happiness? It’s usually a series of simple little things, like saying yes too much when you really should say no. There is a saying, "If you want to get something done, ask a busy person." This makes sense; if you are a busy person, you are obviously organized and practiced at delivering results. Beware: There’s a fine line between taking on a lot and taking on too much.

It’s easy to see how people who are in corporate situations fall into the overcommitment trap. If you’re good at what you do and like your job, everybody wants to rub up against you in some way. They want you in their meeting. They seek out your opinions on their ideas. They ask you to run a project for them. You get assaulted with opportunities. This happens at all levels, high and low. It’s how junior employees advance more rapidly than their peers; their enthusiasm and ambition tempt bosses to pile on the work until the employees cry uncle, which they never do. "I can’t handle it" is the last thing a young ambitious person wants to admit. Eventually, however, the quality of their work begins to falter in a predictable but vicious circle.

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