“People depend on me!”
It’s not just something I’ve heard, it’s something I’ve said, and it needs to stop. “People depend on me” is a phrase we use when we are trying to convince ourselves that we have no choice in a situation. The phrase often starts with statements like, “I have to stay in this job because…”I have to sustain 90 hour weeks because…” or “I can’t possibly do that because people…” and other such nonsense.
But it’s just not true. More importantly, that statement is killing the sustainability of your own motivation, it’s making things harder for you, and causing you to feel more isolated, scared, and powerless.
First off, you don’t “have” to do anything. Period. Full stop. And,second, no one actually depends on you. The statement, in and of itself is dis-empowering to those you are talking about. Your employees don’t depend on you. There are other jobs, they can put their own pants on in the morning, and you’re not god.
What you are, however, is a person that cares enough to create an environment that will increase the chances they can be successful, you are a person who cares enough to help sustain good jobs, and/or you are a person that CHOOSES to work hard to help create opportunities for others.
Acknowledging the conscious choice you are making to be the kind of leader that cares about, and acts on, helping to create better environments and opportunities for others is something you do on purpose. You don’t have to, no one’s forcing you, and you could stop at any time. Sure, they’ll be consequences if you quit, but it’s not the consequences that motivate you.
Deep down, it’s the value you place on helping others, serving others, and working for something greater than yourself the really lights your fire. Inside you is a kick-ass person that drives the ship with an idealistic and hopeful view on the good you can create in the world. Saying that you are doing it because “people depend on you” robs you of the ability to take ownership of that kick-ass person inside of you.
No one depends on you, but they can be afforded greater opportunity because of you. They don’t need you, but can realize greater potential within themselves because of you. They don’t have to have you there, but your being their makes so much difference for them on a daily basis.
And it’s because you consciously, purposefully, and meaningfully make the choice to do this every time you show up. Owning that will allow you to do it more. Acknowledging it will give more fuel to the fire that is your internal awesome-ness. Not everyone chooses to do it, but you do. Not everyone can handle it, but you can.
So maybe, in the future, you stop saying “people depend on me” and start saying something like “Making things better is my priority.” Because only one of them is true. Only one of them acknowledges the choices you make. Only one of them, is you.