Conquering the Obligation Monster

June 10, 2013

Have to, need to, must . . . for the rebellious hearts of the world (like me), those words ring with a sense of doom that may rival the journey to return the ring to Mordor. What? Sigh, my fellow LOTR fans got it.

My point is that the obligation monster exists. He’s a gnarly, whiny, dusty, troublesome fellow who likes to steal our sunshine and, surprisingly, we allow it. There is hope. The trick is to turn the tables on your perspective and determine clear boundaries for the expectations you set with others. Hope appreciates breathing room to flourish and, trust me, so does your sanity.

Certainly, being dependable, responsible, loyal and someone others can count on is outstanding. Nurture those qualities as you take care not to swing the pendulum too far in the apathetic direction. Simply be mindful if a pattern of, “I will enjoy life once this is done” or “I need to do x, y or z before I can relax” or “I will be able to breathe as soon as . . .” starts to surface. Now is all we have for certain, friends.

If, when and right after are phrases we use as crutches to keep from really prioritizing. They are hurdles to transforming what we feel we have to do into a privilege.

A privilege? Yes, I can feel you reeling from the thought of cleaning the house, finishing that report or catching up on tax paperwork as privileges. Not everything is rosy or laced with sugar bows; however, if you view your task or time as a monstrous obligation, you are far more likely to procrastinate, resent it, be moody, take it out on others or carry it as a burden throughout your day(s). Monster wins.

No, shake off the beast. Honestly, most of our woes and problems are first-world issues. What do I mean? Needing to clean out the garage, getting anxious over not having 4G wifi everywhere (guilty) or picking up after a pet in the yard . . . all “civilized” problems. Reframe it: you have a garage, which is likely attached to a house with a roof over your head and the necessities of life; you will survive without a text or email for an hour and might even, shocker, experience the world in 3D real life; and you have a pet who probably loves you and helps you de-stress, most days.

The obligation monster is no match for perspective. His kryptonite is also found in setting healthy boundaries with family, friends, work and your partner. Your computer needs to reboot once in a while and so do you. Always being a fix it, counsel it, and handle it gal or guy is likely based on noble intentions. Still, remember not to steal the lessons of others or take on so much that you are defined by everything but your inner voice.

Best advice: hopeful moderation + take a walk to clear your head. Whatever list, email or challenge that is waiting for you can take a momentary backseat to nature, a nice stroll and that deep breathe you actually do “need.”

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