The Blessing of the Dropped Ball

NOTE:  Originally posted June 20th, 2012 at www.juliewinkleguilioni.com.

I’ll admit it. I suffer from a little bit of SWS (Super Woman Syndrome). OK, maybe a lot.  I entered adulthood in the ‘you can have it all’ era and, although I’ve read plenty of self-help books and dedicate myself (weekly) to the idea of balance, I can’t seem to exorcise it.

Is it so bad that I take pride in doing it all – and doing it well? For me there’s always time do one more thing, take on one more committee, agree to one more meeting. In the process I know I put myself (and those closest to me) under extraordinary stress. But it’s worth it when it all comes together in the end.

Until last week. I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say that I miscalculated on a massive scale what I could pull off… and the balls started dropping. I was mortified and waited for the backlash to begin. But it didn’t.

  • Nobody beat me up
  • Nobody criticized
  • Nobody wagged their fingers at me

Nothing bad happened. In fact, some very good things happened instead. Colleagues stepped up to take on a little more. Committee members were happy to do some of the things I normally did. Someone actually thanked me for the chance to do a task that I had been ‘protecting’ her from in the past.

As those around me stepped up so quickly and generously, I found myself wondering about the effect of my SWS on my colleagues, clients, and community members. And here’s what I realized: I’m not doing anyone any favors by doing it all.  Quite the opposite in fact. 

Every time I say ‘I’ll do that,’ I rob someone else of the chance to become engaged, grow, excel, discover what they can do, and be recognized for it. What I thought was selfless turns out to be pretty selfish instead.

My experience of dropping the ball let me:

  • See what others are capable of… and it’s a lot more than they get to do when I’m keeping all of the balls in play.
  • Connect with people in a more authentic way
  • Reduce my own fear of failure and the stress that I didn’t even know I was carrying around.

As leaders, we don’t serve others by trying to do it all perfectly. Our imperfection gives others a chance to contribute and shine. It also gives them permission to make mistakes too.

Have you ever dropped the ball and experienced a blessing?

As an experiment, what could you drop… just to see what happens?

Please share your experiences because a lot of SWS and SMS (the male version of the disorder) sufferers could benefit from your blessing lessons!