The “Elephant in the Room” metaphor is often used to describe something obvious to others that we usually cannot see. The “Elephant in the Room” is whatever holds us back, makes us sad, keeps us frustrated, or pisses us off.
Are you good at spotting other people’s elephants? What about your own?
My “Elephant” showed up and was sitting on my phone, so I couldn’t make sales calls, and he distracted me so that I couldn’t focus or finish projects. My “Elephant” was “Enthusiastic”.
Now, don’t get me wrong, being “enthusiastic” is a great source of inspiration and energy. It’s one of the most attractive emotions you can wear. But, for me, being enthusiastic had become a problem.
See, I was enthusiastic about whatever the person I was with was into. It felt so good to be enthusiastic that I would join into their dream or vision, and often abandon my own in the process.
If there was any way that I could help or participate, I couldn’t say “No” without feeling guilty, so I was saying "Yes", often. . .
If I couldn’t say “No” guilt-free, then along came Enthusiastic, the Elephant, wearing a bright t-shirt with a big, bold “YES” embroidered on it, and I’d be off and running on another venture.
The problem was that I couldn’t get anything done on my own projects.
I networked a lot to grow my business, so I was constantly hearing about what other people were pursuing. . . there was always something else to say an Enthusiastic “Yes” to.
No one really knew what my business was about because I was always talking about the latest thing that I had said “Yes” to. I was excited and exciting to be around. I was also secretly frustrated that I wasn’t making any progress on my own stuff.
Riding Enthusiastic the Elephant, saying “Yes” to anything that wasn’t a “Guilt-Free No” was exhausting and expensive. I was popular, and broke.
I pondered and tried to imagine what the problem was, what my “Elephant” looked like. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t just riding one Elephant, I was riding two.
In my mind, I could see them clearly. There was “Enthusiastic”, with a bold “YES” embroidered on his t-shirt and the second elephant was: “Guilt-Free”, and Guilt-Free was wearing a t-shirt embroidered with a bright “NO”.
Whenever there was an opportunity, Guilt-Free was always first in the room and if I couldn’t say “NO” to a project guilt-free, Enthusiastic was right there with that bold “YES” and off I went, enthusiastically pursuing yet another project.
It was making me crazy. I started to imagine that the elephants were watching me, always looking for more opportunities to play.
As I said “Yes” to more and more projects, I got less and less done. I grumped around and fussed at my invisible companions, and then laughed at myself for dreaming up Elephants.
I took a break and imagined what life would be like if my Elephants could help me focus instead of helping me create more distractions.
I think the Elephants must have been imagining too.
I went back into my office and started reading emails, sure enough, another offer appeared, and I couldn’t find a way to say “No” to it guilt-free, so I started to say “Yes,” and then the Elephants arrived and unlike before, this time I could see them.
The first elephant in the room was still Guilt-Free, but he wasn’t looking for me to be able to say a guilt-free “NO,” this time he was looking to see if I could say a guilt-free “YES” because he was wearing a new t-shirt and this one had a big, bold “YES” on it.
Well, that’s different. I mean, there’s no way I could say “Yes” to the offer guilt-free because saying “Yes” would mean that I didn’t have time to work on the projects I’d already started.
OH! That was a new thought and right on Guilt-Free’s heels was Enthusiastic, also with a new t-shirt. This one had a big, bright “NO” on it!
Woo-hoo, a new rule – if an offer’s not a “guilt-free yes”, then it’s automatically an “enthusiastic no!”
I was still riding Elephants, but now I was also productive! I zipped through my emails and enthusiastically said “No!” to everything that wasn’t a “guilt-free yes”. Even networking, I was now enthusiastically saying “No” to everything that would have distracted me before.
Dressed appropriately, Guilt-Free and Enthusiastic became my “Elephants of Productivity” and you’re welcome to ride them whenever you want.
Just don’t let them change t-shirts!