Punch Your Guilt in the Face

You have to keep reminding yourself what’s important.

Study the lack of guilt in others.

Start paying more attention to how little some of your colleagues and bosses actually do at work. It’s a powerful antidote to your guilt. Not that you want to turn into them. But watching them puts your own imaginary shortcomings into a new perspective.

Stop feeling guilty about other people’s fires.

Three kinds of people protect the world. Police officers. Firefighters. And nurses. I’m a firefighter. I rush into burning buildings to save people, even if they did something stupid to cause the fire.

Stop trying to save pyromaniacs.

My department chair is always watching a video when I tiptoe into his office with a list of things we need to get done. He says, “Great! Let’s make it happen.” He really means, “Go do it.”

Keep saying no.

So you’ve followed the charcoal rule. You tell people no more often now. Great, you’re communicating and defending your boundaries. But no isn’t a one-off. You have to keep doing it.

Check under your bed for guilt.

When you get home, check under your bed for guilt. If it’s there, punch it in the face. Kick it out. Don’t feel guilty for telling someone no. Don’t second guess your no and start convincing yourself.

Keep the guilt dealers at bay.

If you’re vigilant, you can spot threats to your time from miles off. You can escape them before they even see your shadow on the horizon. They won’t even ask. This applies double for guilt dealers.

Pretend you’re not at home.

Here’s something I hear a lot from guilt dealers: “I stopped by your office, but you weren’t there.” Guess what? Maybe someone knocked, and I didn’t answer. Because I had three hours to grade papers or write something before picking up my kid from daycare.

Make people work for your help.

We should all be willing to help others. But we forget to set up expectations. We put all the burden on ourselves.

Remind yourself why you’re doing things your way.

Maybe you work best in a different environment, or during a different time of day. You don’t fit into the standard 40 hour week. Stop feeling guilty about it. Your guilt dealers have no idea that last week, your boss threw a birthday party for his son’s friend in the conference room on your floor. Those kids turned the hall outside your office into a fun park.

Keep a lookout for your guilt.

When you first get home, check under your bed for guilt. Check your closet. Check behind the shower curtain.

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