Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Are Obligations Getting You Down?

Last week, my shoulder went out, and when my intuitive massage therapist friend looked into the situation, she saw "shouldering burdens" written all over it. When I considered this, right away I realized that I have a tendency to convert the simplest of tasks into obligations---even things that I would thoroughly enjoy if I didn't see them as obligations.

That got me thinking about how we modern-day humans view our "to do" lists, and how we get bogged down by what we think we have to do. The following are some insights about how we get caught up in unnecessary "obligation thinking." Understanding this can help us find a way out.
  1. First of all, many of these personal demands are probably totally unnecessary---figments of our imagination---like taking the time to play a board game with a child who would rather be doing something else. 
  2. There's a difference between real obligations (like paying your Visa bill), and perceived obligations (like donating to the same charity every year).
  3. Many of our obligations are based on guilt. We volunteer to do something we don't want to do because we "feel bad about..."
  4. Sometimes we love to visit our parents, volunteer at the school, take our children to the park, but sometimes we don't feel like it but do it anyway, which can cast an obligation vibe over all the future times that we would have enjoyed these events.
  5. Doing something for someone out of a sense of obligation doesn't feel all that great to them, and can lead to resentment for us. 
  6. Giving out of obligation is nothing like giving out of generosity. When we give freely, it feels wonderful for all concerned, but when we give out of obligation, the gift is somehow tainted.
This week, I ask you to look at your relationship with obligation, guilt, and generosity. Notice if you have healthy boundaries, or if you let others (or yourself) suck you into doing things you don't want to do. Think of someone you know who is very balanced in this area, and see what you can learn form him/her. Maybe make a list of your real obligation vs. your perceived obligations. You may be surprised at how much freedom of choice you actually have, but may not be exercising.