The secret’s out: being good at what you do is a big part of why you’re so successful.
The easy (and often flattering) part of humming in your sweet spot comes with the external recognition of your gifts, abilities, and capacities. What you do is a gateway to opportunity... and then more opportunity.
It’s also one of the fastest (and most subtle) ways to living in the cycle of being successful, stuck, and unfulfilled.
The idea of being good didn’t register as a problem to us, at least not at first.
The more good work we did, the more we were invited to do. This was good for business and — moment of confession — for the ego. You feel us, right?!
You’re a go-to girl who gets things done well. Your “best yes” is to say yes — all the time.
With each new project or position, your sphere of influence widens. The pathway of success includes more than just open doors. Opportunity introduces new relationships, a higher measure of security, and a real sense of personal accomplishment.
It’s a rush!
And it’s a trap.
But you’re a pro, so you know exactly what to say to yourself in these situations. Does it sound something like this?
One more project really won’t take up that much time.
I’ve done things like this before; this will be easy.
It’s the kind of opportunity that paves the way for promotion. How can I say no?!
This will make _____________ (someone else) happy.
It’s such a good cause! I really should be more involved.
If I don’t do it, who will?
I may never get asked to do this again, so I’m in!
The yes may be easy, but what happens next isn’t: Opportunity starts to feel less like an invitation and more like an obligation with no way out. You take on opportunities until you end up with more commitments than Khloé Kardashian has shoes!
We might be exaggerating for effect, but not by much. We have our list of opportunities to prove it. We were experts, and we collected commitments until we were overcommitted and overwhelmed.
We believed that being good at what we did was enough to make it all happen.
So we adjusted and readjusted our schedules. Shifted meetings and priorities. Packed our days. Scheduled our people at work and at home. We said yes and slept less, genuinely thinking we could do it all. We even gave ourselves personal pep talks, extra caffeine, late nights and early mornings… all to keep up with our yes.
And we did it all...for a season.
Before long, the opportunities in our lives stopped us from living.
We were stuck in commitments, with the waters of resentment rising all around us. We had: No energy. No spark of creativity. No enthusiasm for life or work. No joy. And no excellence in our follow through.
We were overwhelmed by opportunities.
We even contemplated quitting it all, selling everything, and escaping to a remote island. But we knew we’d overcommit in Tahiti too.
Is this story familiar?
When you’re good at what you do, a good opportunity is never hard to find. But grandma was right: too much of a good thing really is too much.
Rather than say yes to it all, sometimes you need to OPT OUT of opportunity.
In Ephesians 2:10 (TPT; personalization added), we’re given a picture of how God meant for us to live.
[You] have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of [you], for [you] are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before [you] were born, God planned in advance [your] destiny and the good works [you] would do to fulfill it!
The Amplified version of the Bible translates the last part of this verse to say, “that [you] should walk in them.” In short: you were meant to walk in specific good works, planned in advance by God, Himself. When you live this way, you’re like a living work of art — poetry in action. Best of all? This is where you fulfill your destiny.
Living this way requires focus. It’s a decision to be selective with your yes, from work to relationships and everything in between. It’s a selective approach to opportunity.
You could say it this way:
Put that on your bathroom mirror followed by a reminder in ALL CAPS that selectivity is U N C O M F O R T A B L E.
To be selective, you’ll need to say no. This means you will let people down.
Read that again. Let it sink in.
Now say it out loud: I will let people down.
You may even let yourself down.
And that is OK. We know we can’t please everyone, but somewhere inside, we still want to. That habit has to be discarded for you to grow.
Temporary discomfort and disappointment is a sign you’re making progress.
Are you excited yet, or are you trying to justify the good work that fills your calendar?
Take a deep breath. You’re doing good work. We know it’s good, and we know it’s important, even if it’s important to someone else.
But this isn’t about someone else.
This is about you — building your life well.
And being selective is part of your foundation. It’s the “new black” in your life wardrobe. It can be used anytime, and it goes with everything.
Putting on selectivity may initially be uncomfortable.
That’s normal. The more you use it, the less discomfort you’ll feel. To live it well is to have worn it often, so try it on now with a simple exercise.
Grab a notebook or your pen and make three headings: 1) Love it! 2) Meh. 3) I should have said NO!
Think through the things you’re doing. List EVERYTHING currently in your schedule and life, placing each thing under ONE (only ONE, ladies!) of the three headings. Then evaluate what you have listed under each, but especially those items under “Meh and “I should have said NO!”
Ask yourself: What do I keep? What do I delegate? What do I stop doing today?
When you’re done, your “keep” and “love it” list are where to focus your attention. Here’s where your good works — the ones God planned ahead for you to do — start to come into focus.
It may be uncomfortable at first, but opting out of opportunity will free you to experience the goods works you were meant to accomplish.
Be selective, and let’s build life well!