I have spent the better part of my life being the guy everyone can count on for help. There are lots of ways I’ve helped others such as with projects around the house, dealing with a problem, or achieving a goal. I’ve always been there for others, and still love being this way.
When it comes to the other way around, I am far less practiced at asking for or even accepting help. There are lots of reasons for this including not wanting to look weak, thinking it makes me look vulnerable, and at times the belief I’m not worthy of the help.
There were times …
Shortly after we moved into our current house, I was in the basement late one evening drywalling. I am fairly good with doing work such as this, and there aren’t many household projects I will not tackle myself. I was tired as all my spare time was going into the basement, including weekends and late into the evening most weekday nights. I remember I was taping and mudding the ceiling late one evening. I looked around and remember thinking “sigh … I probably have another week of mudding to do. Just about then a friend stuck his head in the door to say “Hi!”. He’s a contractor. He told me he’d be right back. He reappeared a few minutes with his drywalling gear. One hour later it was done. I didn’t even have to sand the joints. Why didn’t I just ask for help to begin with as it would have saved me days of work.
I was once managing a large multi-million dollar IT project. I was in way over my head, and things were not going well. The schedule kept getting pushed back, we continually needed more people on the team and the budget was taking a real kicking. When I think about this the complexity of what I was trying to manage was off the scale compared to anything else I had done. In addition, it was the single biggest & complex thing done in the department to that point. I highly doubt anyone on the management team would have been surprised if I asked for help. However, I remember thinking it would be a sign I wouldn’t be competent or capable of such a big challenge. Thankfully they didn’t fire me over this.
Way of the Heart Retreat was born out of my desire to run a retreat. I churned on it for several months, taking action in an attempt to get traction and make it real. Finally thanks to a challenge from my coach I asked my friend Shelley Schanzenbacher for help. Shelley’s response …. “Well it’s about time! I thought you’d never ask!” She was right in her enthusiastic response. However, she knew me too well and was just patiently waiting me out. A week later, Way of the Heart Retreat was real.
The impact of not asking for help
The first thing I notice when I get in this mode of not asking for help, is how I start to feel very alone against the world. Everyone around me starts to feel like competition or someone I have to try and keep up with. I start to act from a mindset of scarcity, as I don’t believe I can have what I really want. It’s a bit of a downward spiral starting here.
My rational and organized skills serve me well as long those thoughts are aligned with my passions. When it happens the other way around and I live in my head, my thoughts start to scheme and devise all kinds of stories that only slow me down and make situations worse. More downward spiral.
I start rationalizing why no-one wants what I’m offering, nor would they even want to talk with me. This thinking isn’t based on anything, other than a fear of vulnerability. So I don’t pick up the phone, I don’t send an email, I don’t post on social media. Then I start noticing no-one is coming to me (go figure). Downward we go.
I churn. Simple as that. I churn and nothing happens. The downward spiral continues.
Although it doesn’t always play out this way, it gives you a good idea of the type of cycle that happens for me when I don’t ask for help. The more I don’t ask for help, the harder it gets to ask for help.
Learning from asking for help
I’ve become hyper-aware of this trait in me the past couple months. I think I’ve known it’s there for some time, however, due to the Leadership program I’m in I’ve become very aware of when I have and have not asked for help. I now see great leaders have no fears around asking for help. They ask people all around them, including the people they lead.
A few weeks ago an opportunity presented itself which would have been very good for me financially. However, I know had I accepted it I would have become consumed by it, and taken me from some work that’s really important to me. For a moment, I was tempted to fall into an old pattern and accept the work. It would have been easy. All I had to do was say “I’m in”.
Then I found a strength in me and approached two people I trust to hold me to my words. I asked them each for help. I asked them to call me out if they saw me pursuing that bigger opportunity, rather than following my passions. This is when I learned one of the most important lessons about asking for help; in asking for help it’s as if I gave myself permission to help myself. I did not take the large opportunity, and I am totally at peace with that. I haven’t really needed to tap into the strength of my two friends and I don’t know that I ever will.
Suddenly I find myself asking for help in all kinds of places. I’ve taken a very audacious step in asking for help, which will become the topic of a future blog post I’m sure. Although I’m sure there will be moments of discomfort with the word “help” I actually see it as a sign of strength now.
Ask for help!
There’s probably parts of your life you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed. Perhaps you just feel very vulnerable. Whatever it is, ask yourself what might be possible if you were to get help. Would your life be less stressful? Would you feel like you’re actually accomplishing things? Would there be a brighter smile on your face tomorrow?
What’s the worst that could happen? Perhaps tomorrow you will be exactly where you are today, not worse off, just where you are now.
Here’s my challenge to everyone who reads this post: Find one thing in your life for which you’re feeling overwhelmed, stuck or frustrated about. Anything. It might be in your working life, or in your personal life. Now make a list of the people you could ask for help from. One of those people must be the most outrageous thing you could imagine. Someone you believe is way beyond your reach. Someone you cannot imagine ever agreeing to helping you.
Now go ask for help! Just do it! Trust me … it’s worth it as I found freedom here.
Ready to find the strength to help yourself?
Join us on retreat May 27-29, 2016
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Wonderful and authentic.! Thank you Mike!
Really nice post Mike!!!