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When Caretaking Skills Interfere with Your Goals

By Audrey Seymour

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Many of my clients report that even when they are excited about launching or re-orienting their business, it’s still much easier to continue serving the needs and requests of others rather than sitting down and focusing on their own work.

What's needed is to keep a commitment to a certain number of hours each week implementing your vision, in order to recapture your momentum.

But if with the best of intentions it keeps not happening, it's time to get curious about what keeps pulling you away from the path that calls you.

I'm not talking here about the occasional situation where you need to handle something unexpected, but rather those times when you know that you don't really need to be spending so many hours on certain tasks or projects, but you keep doing them anyway.

So what is it that pulls us off course here? In an earlier article I talked about the difference between being purpose-driven and demand-driven. However in this case, the level of external demand is not the issue -- I am talking about internally driven demands that objectively are lower priority.

I remember this from my early days of juggling two jobs, managing strategy and operations for Speaking Circles International while building my coaching practice. The combination of multilevel responsibility and deep individual work suits me to a "T", but I caught myself spending extra time doing "busy work" on the other company's website rather than finishing my own.

One client who was trying to leave her "day job" kept spending her spare hours helping her boyfriend brainstorm his business instead of her working on hers.

What was going on in these cases?

The answer came in a comment from a client who expressed gratitude at being able to step into radical new territory "while in relationship."

When working for others, we enjoy the benefit of being in relationship with them. Yet keeping a priority on pleasing others can keep us from finding our true calling in life -- whether in our goals or in the day-to-day execution of those goals.

The fact is that starting something new always requires leaving relationship in one way or another. You may need to leave a warm community of coworkers to try a new field. Or you might lose the familiar reward of a boss or business partner's approval when you set out on your own.

In more challenging cases, disapproval, disappointment, and even anger can be the response from the immediate community when breaking the mold of your familiar role.

Once you recognize this aspect of change, you can address it directly with others when needed. It is also important to look for ways to bring new connection and community into your life.

Set up informational interviews. Join professional organizations. Consider creating partnerships as an option. Find nonjudgmental friends to support you or a coach to bring out the best in you during the change.

At the deepest level, stepping into new territory means that you are leaving a familiar relationship with yourself behind. What self-identities no longer fit? Who are you becoming as you face the unknown?

When you make peace with facing that level of aloneness, life becomes an exciting adventure where you are not limited by the priorities of others.

© 2006-2009 Audrey Seymour. All rights reserved.