4 Questions to Ask When You Feel Overcommitted

Why Is Everyone Always Expecting too Much from You?

Don’t you hate it when people demand too much of you? When they pressure you to deliver more than you ever could? When they expect more from you than you could possibly do, even if you had 36 hour days and 9-day weeks?  Who do they think they are?

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It’s people like that who make you feel guilty isn’t it? They make you feel frustrated and anxious, stressed out and on edge.

They make you feel resentful eventually, bitter that you’re being forced to do what they want instead of what you want—and it’s all their fault!

Ok. That may be how we feel sometimes, but it’s not exactly true.

I’ve been writing posts lately about the importance of saying NO (I’m calling it The NO Initiative), because it directly affects the quality of the story we live.

The truth is that when we have too much to do, it’s because we have chosen to do too much.

We Choose to Be Too Busy

A little more than a decade or so ago, I was in a busy season of life.

I was teaching a full course load of high school classes. I was running the entire athletic department for a school that was growing quickly with almost 20 different sports teams.

I was overseeing the student body, basically the one charged with dealing with all student-related stuff and discipline issues.

Oh, and we had four kids and two more on the way. (Yes, my wife IS a saint.)

In the midst of all of that, I decided to head back to school to earn my Masters in Business Administration (MBA).  During which time, the fifth and sixth children showed up.

It was busy, to be sure. Sometimes I became discouraged, overwhelmed, and came home with a “why are they doing this to me” attitude.

But no one was doing anything to me. I had chosen to take on every single responsibility. 

Sometimes the frustration was because I need to learn something. Sometimes it was because I should have said NO but didn’t.

Sometimes it was because I lacked the clarity to focus on the essentials and allowed non-essentials to fill my schedule.

So every parent that drove me crazy complaining about an issue with their children–I chose to deal with that.

Every sports team that had an issue with facilities that I had to iron out—I asked to do that.

Every student who need help understanding why Odysseus did what he did—I agreed to help him or her understand.

And all the kids at home? Yep, I had a role to play in that, as well.

The point is that I was super-busy because I chose to be super busy. There was no one to blame for that frustrating season but myself.

All those “bad” people “forcing” me to do things were simply doing what I had given them permission to do.

4 Questions to Clarify Your Responsibility

Zig Ziglar famously asked four questions that I’ll revise only slightly to fit this discussion.

I challenge you to ask them to yourself right now—and answer honestly:

  1. Do you believe there is something specific you can do in the next three weeks to make yourself feel more overcommitted?
  2. Do you believe there is something specific you can do in the next three weeks to make yourself feel less overcommitted?
  3. Do you believe the choice to do or not do that specific thing is yours?
  4. Do you believe that every choice has an end result?

If I answer YES to these 4 questions, as I think we all must do, then a simple but empowering truth becomes clear.

There is something I can specifically do right now that will make me feel either more or less overcommitted–and the choice is all mine.

“You cannot escape responsibility for tomorrow by evading it today.” –Abraham Lincoln

We all need the humility to realize we cannot do it all and the courage to say NO, even when we would prefer to say YES.

When we acknowledge our responsibility, we empower ourselves to change.

What will you choose to do today to take responsibility for being over committed and spread too thin?

Your story is being written either by you or for you.

You can choose today which it will be.

Photo credit: Monoar

Why You Should Say YES to Saying NO

When Helping Others Isn't Helping at All

Do you struggle to say NO—especially when people ask you for help? I do. As a Christian, I think it’s even more difficult because, after all, aren’t we called to be like Jesus and serve when moved with compassion?

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The problem is this: when we let other people’s priorities write our story, we end up with a jumbled tale that no one would ever want to read.

And here is the harsh truth: it happens because we let it happen.

Do You Have the Faith to Say No?

When Doing Less Requires More Faith than Doing More

The writer of Ecclesiastes said there is a time for everything. Unfortunately, I tend to think that I have time for everything.

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When I stepped out from my role of running a Christian school in Ohio several years ago, we went for almost a year with no income. I tell more about the story in my book A Story Worth Telling, but suffice it to say that it wasn’t easy.

Six kids to feed, a beautiful wife to provide for, a mortgage to pay, and nothing but the belief that God had called me to write and minister to His Kingdom-at-Large.

Eventually opportunities began to surface as I kept moving forward, stumbling and learning as I went. We moved to Atlanta to position myself for maximum effectiveness.

And it all began to come together.

Now I have a different problem.

What happens when you move from having nothing to do to a place where you have so much to do that you feel overwhelmed?

The Question of When to Say When

That’s the question I’ve wrestled with for the last many weeks.

Untitled-8As you may have noticed, I took August off to focus on the Ziglar Family project. I’ve sent you a few emails of late to be the first to experience the new course and to  give you an opportunity to help your family at a significant discount.

But August turned into September. And now it’s October. And I am still feeling over-committed.

I have a few key projects on my plate in addition to the Ziglar Family effort. I LOVE what I do and more people need more help than ever.

I confess, it’s intoxicating to know people need you. It certainly is better than the year I spent wondering if I would ever be of any help to anyone ever again.

But here is one thing I’m in the process of learning–it takes faith to say no.

I really do not like saying No to anyone.

If I can help, my auto-response is that I should help. I suspect that is partly due to my personality and mostly due to a mindset that infects much of Christianity–a misunderstanding of service.

We tend to pour ourselves out for others–and think that the more spent we feel, the closer to God we are. But it just isn’t true.

When we spread ourselves too thin, we actually help less than we could have, because the quality of our help declines. The people we’re called to serve the most–our families– suffer the most.

We think we’re doing more, but we’re actually doing less–and none of it is as good as it should be.

The tough truth  I struggle to embrace is this: I can’t do it all.

I know that may seem an obvious truth, but I often think that I CAN find a way to pull it off.

But the truth is that Jesus came to the world for one purpose. His ministry remained focused on his purpose. And the same is true for me and you. If we’re not clear on our purpose, we will end up scattered and ineffective and overwhelmed and–quite frankly, worn out.

What I’m Doing about It

When I recognized my struggle with being overcommitted, I reached out for help.

I enlisted the guidance of my life coach who steered me well through my transition several years ago.

516txpkm6l-_sx332_bo1204203200_He recommended I start by reading a book by Greg McKeown called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I HIGHLY recommend it if you have every felt overwhelmed by life (I suspect that is everyone).

I ordered it from Amazon immediately and had read it within two days of receiving it. Then I began to re-read it. Powerful and effective book.

I put up some boundaries. I set up an autoresponder in my personal email account to let people know I may not be getting back to them ASAP because of the projects on my plate. I didn’t like doing it, but it is reality. If I don’t protect my time to write and create, no one else will. And I will fail to fulfill my calling.

I enlisted the help of my wife. My wife is a guardian and better able to tell people no–or at least to tell me to tell people no. So I’ve enlisted her help with planning (an area of strength for her), which also increases accountability.

I began telling people no. I do NOT like turning down projects or telling people I can’t help them. But I began to do it. And guess what–the world didn’t end. (Ok, I confess I am still afraid that it might, but….)

I refocused on my relationship with the source of all wisdom and strength. When we get busy, one of the first things to go is our time with God and His word. I got intentional about protecting that time–and expanding that time to meditate, pray, and think.

I am slowly coming to terms with the reality that I cannot do it all. I am realizing that if I am to keep the main thing the main thing then I must turn down a lot of really good opportunities. But it is still very much a work in progress.

If I am to live a story worth telling, I must choose certain, specific paths and not try to explore all of them at once.

I believe that to be true. Now I need to act on what I believe to be true.

I’ll let you know what I discover, just in case you’ve ever felt overcommitted and overwhelmed.

Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know if you’ve ever felt this same pressure to please and overcommit.

I’m hoping I’m not the first person to struggle with saying no.

What to Do When Your Spouse Disagrees about Your Calling

7 Reminders to Help Get on the Same Page with Your Spouse

You think you know the direction God would have you to go. You believe you have clarity about your next steps to do what God designed you to do. You may even want to leave your current job and step out in a new direction. But your spouse doesn’t see it. What do you do?

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A reader actually sent me this question recently. It’s one I receive fairly frequently from Christians trying to figure out God’s best for their lives. And it is an important one.

Episode 22: Why Unplugging from Everything Helps You See the Main Things

5 Lessons Learned from Taking a Vacation

I finally did it! I did the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the seemingly impossible—I took a vacation. And I lived to learn a few things from it.

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I recently unplugged completely and took a week off with family at Disney World. It was my first vacation on at least 3-4 years.

Episode 21: What’s Happening to Marriage and Religious Liberty?

A Conversation with Andrew T. Walker of the ERLC

If you are like a lot of Christians—or even conservative folks, you’re blown away by how quickly marriage and religious liberty have seemed to crumble in recent years. What are we to make of it all in light of the seemingly constant pressure to be made to care?

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In this episode I share a conversation with Andrew T. Walker of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is also the co-author of the book Marriage Is in which he argues marriage is not up for debate.

The Person God Wants Me to Marry Is… [Part 3]

What Keeps Us from Asking the Tough Questions before We Say "I do."

Who hasn’t heard a married person say, “I didn’t realize my wife was so….” Or “If I would have know that about him….” The truth is we never truly know the person we think God wants us to mary until after we’re married. But we can see some of the problems coming if we’re willing to ask the tough questions before we say “I do.”

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In our own relationship, my wife and I talked through a lot of issues prior to getting married. Church and doctrine, parenting philosophy, the place of Scriptures in our decision-making, and a host of other issues.

We even went through a money-management course (which her father wisely insisted we take) so we had at least started the conversation about that potentially divisive issue prior to tying the knot.

But a lot of couples don’t talk about these and other significant life issues–and then they wonder what happened when those real-life issues hit them upside the head.

The Person God Wants Me to Marry Is … Part Two

The Second Question Every Christian Should Ask Before Saying "I Do"

Don’t you wish it were easier to figure out the person God wants you to marry? After all, the movies make it look so easy:  See the person. Fall madly in love. Pine away for him or her for a little while. Then magically overcome all obstacles and live happily ever after.

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At least that seems like the way it’s supposed to work. But real life often unfolds rather differently, doesn’t it?

And for those who want a happy, healthy marriage that will be pleasing to God, it’s going to take more than eHarmony to marry the right person.

The Person God Wants Me to Marry Is…

3 Questions Every Christian Should Ask Before Saying "I Do"

Marriage is one of the big ones. Most decisions in life don’t come close to it for life-altering consequences. What to wear, what to eat, how fast to drive, even what job or career to pursue pales in comparison. The potential implications of this question are staggering: How do I know if God wants me to marry this person?

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Make the wrong decision when it comes to marriage and it can leave a mark for your entire life — and beyond, really, as children deal with the aftermath for generations.

No pressure;  just pointing out what you already know if you are trying to figure out what God wants next for your life when it comes to getting married.

How to Stop Being Too Tired for God

7 Ways to Restore Rest

After my last post [Are You Too Busy to Hear What God Wants Next?], I heard from a friend on the other side of the world who had just received a copy of my latest book A Story Worth Telling — but was too tired to read it.

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So even though he knew he needed to make some changes in order to live a story worth telling, the pace of his life was leaving him too tired to do it. So he asked an obvious question I think we all ask at times: what can I do when I am too tired for God?