Underwhelm Yourself

Underwhelm Yourself

I attended a holiday party the other day. Delightful event. Chatted with a vivacious person named Melissa who I had not met before. There are 3 great parties going on tomorrow evening, Melissa said to me. One has a raffle and a special entertainer, and two are benefit fundraisers. I don’t know which one to go to. I feel like I should go to them all.

Whew. I feel overwhelmed.

I like to go to parties with the rest of you. But more importantly, I like to stay underwhelmed. Obligation is a mental frame. Commitment is a personal choice. They are conjoined twins. A heightened sense of obligation triggers my willingness to make commitments I resent and don’t wish to keep.

Last Saturday I roamed the Christmas market in Limburg, a German town an hour Northwest of Frankfurt. Even here, in the German provinces, I feel the delirious rush-rush of holiday shoppers loaded up with too many shopping bags. A collective frenetic overwhelm. Why, I wonder? A sense of obligation? A commitment to what?                

I coach successful people. Successful people never have enough time to attend every meeting, every function, every party that’s put on their plate. Personal success is not sustainable without figuring this one out. What’s a true obligation? What’s a commitment I’m not willing to make?

The more obligation stories we carry, the quicker we unravel into a sense of overwhelm. Our mental and physical energies deplete. We all know what that feels like.

Why not underwhelm yourself this holiday season? Flip the conversation. Instead of making the usual rounds of holiday parties, consider these questions: Is this event a true obligation? Who decided that this is an obligation? What would be my personal consequences for not honoring this obligation?

And if you can, un-obligate yourself. Is this an invitation that requires a commitment on my part? What would be my personal consequences for not making this specific commitment?

And if you can, un-commit yourself. Suddenly you’re well on your way to underwhelming yourself. Every time you un-commit you practice a key success principle. When you underwhelm yourself, you conserve energy for the commitments that matter.

Every successful person knows: Most events will be fine if s/he doesn’t attend or sends a surrogate. Use the holiday weeks to practice the art of underwhelming yourself. Underwhelm feels good. And it always magnifies personal success.

If you decide that an obligation really IS an obligation – like showing up at your parents’ New Years’ Eve party even though it isn’t always a load of fun – flip the conversation again. Decide that you’re going because you want to, not because it’s an obligation.

It’s always the more energizing choice.

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Achim Nowak is an author, speaker, C-Suite coach, international authority on personal presence. His book "The Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating a Mindful Life in a Distracted World" (New Page Books) has just been published. His previous books have become prized resources for entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 executives around the globe. Achim and his work have been featured on 60 Minutes, Fox News, NPR, in The New York Times and The Miami Herald.