I have a confession to make: I often (maybe always) make things harder than they have to be! No really, I do. If there were a degree awarded for this one, I would have a PhD in MTH (making things hard)! And I’ve discovered I have a lot of company from other high-achieving, goal-oriented folks. Perhaps you’re one of them.
It’s a bad habit really, and one I’m working to let go of. There’s always a pay-off when we make things harder than they have to be. Sometimes the pay-off is a sense of pride in seeing how much we had to overcome (most of it self-imposed) to reach our goal. Other times it’s the attention we generate in the form of: “Oh look how hard she’s working. Isn’t that wonderful!” Still other times we do it because we need the juice that comes from using adrenaline to push toward goals rather than using the natural energy that comes from being naturally drawn in the direction of our dreams and intentions. And sometimes we just love the drama, which is really a combination of all of the above.
Do you recognize yourself in anything so far? Perhaps you’ll notice one of your patterns in the following descriptions of favorite strategies for “making things harder than they have to be.” Maybe you have a favorite racket that’s not listed here. Read on and decide whether it’s time to surrender your MTH degree!
“It’s Complicated.” This pattern is characterized by the tendency to add extra unnecessary steps in order to either delay completion or feel self-satisfied about doing so much work. It’s a tricky way to put off starting or completing a project. This week instead of seeing how many extra steps something takes, see if you can get the same results by simplifying. At the very least, quit telling yourself “it’s complicated”!
“It has to be perfect.” This is a close relative of #1. Someone recently shared with me that when you play the perfectionist game you set the bar so high you force yourself to play “small” to insure you get under it. Does that task or project really have to be perfect? Few things do. Decide what the standard is, then go for it. As I have learned and often share with my coaching clients, imperfect and done beats perfect and undone every time.
“When-then.” The “when-then” game is a way of promising to do something after you’ve completed 10 other things. “When my children are grown, then I’ll pay attention to myself,” for example. When-then makes things harder because you are setting up useless obstacles that serve one purpose: putting off what you say you want to do. Ask yourself a couple of powerful questions when you’re caught in the”when-then” cycle: How can I start taking action now on that promise or intention? What am I avoiding by not acting on it now? It’s really a game you made up. You can change the rules.
“Unconscious patterns.” All of the above are patterns of behavior that have been conditioned over time. Simply becoming aware of the unconscious patterns that are running your behavior is a huge step forward. Become skilled at noticing when you’re acting out the various patterns of “making things harder.” Often just noticing can help unhook you. Usually however it is a combination of awareness and action that disconnects the MTH patterns. Use the powerful combination of awareness + action to shift the balance of power and get you moving forward.
Even if your particular variety of “MTH” is not mentioned here, you may still be aware that you’re making things much harder than they have to be. The “world” isn’t judging you (trust me, most people are too busy running their own “MTH” racket to pay much attention to yours); you’re judging you. Start this week to live from a new pattern, one that allows room for your humanity, humility and natural joy to show up. What a gift to give yourself and those around you-ease!
Now take a deep breath and look for next step. It will be the easy one.
About Betty Mahalik
Betty Mahalik is a professional coach, trainer, facilitator and BYY partner who has been teaching people how to communicate effectively, enjoy life, manage stress and deal with change for more than 20 years.
A former television news reporter and anchorwoman, Betty worked for eight years in the field of public relations prior to starting her own business in 1987. For two-and-a-half years she served on the training staff of National Seminars, and has spoken before hundreds of audiences, large and small.
In January of 2009 her first book, Living a Five Star Life, was published by Simple Truths. To find out more about Betty, order a copy of her book, or to subscribe to Betty’s free weekly motivational message on Monday Morning Coach, visit her website at www.dynamic-coaching.com. Or contact her at (702) 658-4425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.