You're Not the Boss of Me

Little kids, especially toddlers, are fearless, aren’t they?  Not necessarily in a physical sense, like being unafraid of climbing the highest tree or skating downhill without a plan for stopping.  I’m thinking more about how they approach life.  While they understand a pecking order and that the very tall people (a.k.a. parents, older relatives, teachers) seem to make the rules, kids in general are willing to push limits with the tall people to make their voice heard in an attempt to get what they want. 

You know what I’m talking about.  There’s a phrase that I bet most children have shouted, muttered or pouted at one time or another. It’s usually uttered after a tall person has tried to tell them what to do.   With much foot stomping, tears, little fists held high and as much drama as they can muster, they let out “You’re not the boss of me!”

At this point, tall people – especially those who are not the parents – try to hide their laughter and maintain some sense of hierarchy to calm the one-person mutiny that is underway. 

While I don’t have kids of my own, I know this from my nieces and nephews.  Even my dog says “You’re not the boss of me”, although hers is more of an evil-eye, like “You may have stopped me from chewing the couch now, but I’ll leave you a present someday when you least expect it”. 

As adults, wouldn’t it be nice to have such a phrase to use at work?  I can see it now: sitting in a meeting with other execs, when the boss gives directions that no one wants to follow.  Wouldn’t it be great to say, “No, I’m not going to do that; you’re not the boss of me!”? 

Somehow I don’t think that would go over too well.

We are all used to the pecking order, and when a lay-off hits we find ourselves facing a new hierarchy.  Without a boss, I suddenly found myself in charge, especially since I began consulting.  Some call it self-motivation or being an entrepreneur, but all that really means is that you boss yourself. Great. It’s hard enough to have a boss or be a boss, but double the trouble if you are both employee and boss. Those conversations are pretty funny too.

“No, I’m not interested in working on this project”.  “But you have to; there’s no one else here to do it.”  “I’ll get to it when I feel like it.”  “No, you need to work on it now.”  “Don’t tell me what to do; I am the boss of me!”

These personal tantrums can go on indefinitely, with no one else to mediate.

At times I have felt like I have split personality disorder.  I’m sure the people at the local coffee house have wondered who I am talking to as I sit alone working on my laptop, having a heated discussion with no one about the work I am supposed to be doing.   

Unfortunately I AM the boss of me.  So I have to motivate myself to do work that sometimes I just don’t feel like doing.  How do I motivate myself?  Here are some tricks I use:

-          Set time limits. If I get my work done by X time, then I can go out to lunch vs. eating at home.  Food is always a good motivator for me.

-          Have small treats that feel like huge rewards.  For example, when I complete a certain portion of my work, I treat myself by spending 10 minutes sitting by the pool with the latest magazine.  Doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but even 10 minutes outside does wonders for me.  Besides, with temps in the triple digits, 10 minutes is about all I can take.

-          Sometimes I allow for “reverse motivation” – meaning, I’ll get up earlier than normal so I can read the paper over breakfast at the local coffee house (there’s that food motivator again).  It really doesn’t take much more time than eating at home, yet it feels like a wonderful treat to get motivated for the day. I mean, who doesn’t love a good pastry in the morning?

-          Schedule, schedule, schedule! Including other things during the work day, such as a specific time to go to the gym. The more things I have on my schedule, the more productive I actually become.  With deadlines to meet I know my work must be completed in order to make my gym time.  Of course, since I don’t like to go to the gym this can be counter-productive, although it does allow me to continue with my “morning treat” motivation listed above.    

Are these fool proof? No.  Do they prevent me from dilly-dallying and daydreaming, putting off work that needs to get done?  Sometimes, but not always.  Yet I need them to keep some sense of order, and provide some way to motivate myself to keep moving forward. 

Fun part is that I get to set the rules. After all, I am the boss of me.

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