I have been accused of glorifying the fact that I am busy. I have also been accused of using my busyness like a badge of honor. I have even been accused of criticizing those who are not as busy with the same sorts of things – implying they are doing something less important or valuable than I am. I would like to deny these accusations but I am guilty of doing all of these things.
I have chosen to start my own business. I have chosen to take on all that comes along with that decision, including extreme busyness. I am learning that my choice affects the people I love but I am learning how to manage my choices because I have two mentors who have the courage to tell me the truth.
One well-formulated, well-timed question from a mentor has changed how I see all of this. It still amazes me how one question, when asked lovingly and by someone you trust implicitly, can change the lens with which you see your entire life through. I am blessed with two mentors who have mastered the art of asking that question.
During one of our more casual conversations, a mentor and close friend asked me: “how will you know when this business is running you instead of you running it, Cate?” It was a zinger for me because I had not considered his question…ever. I had no response so I asked him what he meant even though there is no other way to ask that question; it is a very clear question.
He indulged me and continued: “How will you know when you have started to sacrifice more than this business is worth? How will you know when you have asked too much of the people you love? How will you know when you have succeeded? How much is enough?”
As a new entrepreneur, I am a little embarrassed to say that I hadn’t really considered any of these things. I was caught up in the rush of adrenaline most of us experience when we work so hard at our vision that it starts to become a tangible reality. The sheer volume of work this new business required was overwhelming at times and I had to admit to him that I hadn’t considered his question. I tried to answer him, though my answers were vague and a bit sad.
I knew my husband would support me in any way necessary to see me succeed. I knew my kids would always love me…and is there such a thing as too much success? His reply was to explain that there are always costs with life decisions like this – relational, financial, physical, spiritual, and emotional – and that the costs affect everybody who loves and supports me – so I would be wise to consider them. I left our conversation and thought about his questions for a while and then forgot. About a week later I had a different conversation with another mentor who asked me the same questions and I could no longer pretend the answers didn’t matter; my answers would be critical.
I sat down with my husband and asked the same questions and he had some answers for me, much to my surprise. He talked about our children and their need to see me and feel important. He explained that he could see a difference in their demeanor when they felt disconnected from me. He said four words that made my heart sink: “they need their mother”. So the difficult conversation begins…
We talked about putting boundaries in place that honor our marriage so we come through the next several years relatively unscathed and stronger for our children and families. We talked about keeping physically healthy so that while I was building this new business and probably not sleeping well, combined with a heavy workload and long days, I would remain healthy. We talked about what he would need to take care of the home front so that both he and our children always felt like they were part of this new adventure. We promised to hold each other accountable so neither of us ever felt lost in our marriage.
It honestly sounded a little odd to me to be having discussions like this. I have always felt like conversations around “healthy boundaries” are for people who don’t observe any and people in 12 step programs, but I was dead wrong. Some of the most impactful conversations I have had are around expectations and boundaries. It is impossible to know when you have violated an expectation or boundary if you have not defined any and then we run the risk of deeply hurting the people we love and never really understanding why or how to stop. We all have expectations of others whether we realize it or not and these conversations allow us to define and express those expectations so that we are able to honor boundaries and love better. It is painful to hear a loved one admit they have felt less important, let down, or ignored but the healthiest relationships I know have these conversations often and welcome the clarity, accountability, and responsibility they bring.
Here is how I know when I am living on a slippery slope:
When I repeatedly justify violating boundaries around family time, relationships, and friends…I am failing myself and the people who love me.
When my focus become so narrow that I can go days and weeks without wondering how those around me are feeling or what they may need from me…I am failing myself and the people who love me.
When my busyness becomes my badge of honor and justification for judging others…I am failing myself and the people who love me.
Healthy, honest conversations around expectations and boundaries are not optional if you want to succeed in any part of your life, they are critical.