When saying “no” isn’t enough – why expectations are key to energy management

It has become a bit of a theme in our culture today to say to friends “you have to say no” and “you can’t do everything”. We seem to know that taking on too much and trying to be everything to everyone is not sustainable. Yet, when we delve into client conversations about things that are drawing overly on their energy levels (credits) it is still down to the amount they have on their plates.

We still take on the extra piece of work (to demonstrate our commitment or prove our worth), we still squeeze in one more coffee or social engagement (to stay connected or be a good friend), we stay up later than we should (to connect with our partner or get some personal time), we agree to help out with the school fundraiser or local volunteer project (because we feel we should or it’s the right thing to do).

It is as if we have no boundaries for ourselves and an unmanaged expectation that we will just keep going until it is physically or emotionally impossible for us to do more. Only at that point will we actually say, “I just can’t right now” or “no, thank you.” Sometimes we just can’t face saying no and we start to let people down. Worst of all we find that we let ourselves down and begin to feel low because we have set some unspoken expectations for ourselves that are just too difficult to meet.

Expectations are like identities. If you don’t define them for yourself, someone will define them for you. If we want to manage our energy well, we first need to define our own expectations of what we are able and willing to take on for ourselves and when it comes to others. Under what circumstances are you able to take on extra work and still complete your core role effectively? When is it realistic to get more involved in your local school or community project? When is it too much for you to agree to more social activities?

If we are to truly ensure our energy is sustainable we have to make these expectations clear for ourselves, discuss them with our families or partners and then stick to them.  Our own sustainability has to be at the forefront of lives and decisions if we are to find the energy to offer to others.