knowing when to ask for help

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Knowing When To Ask For Help

I started gardening about a year after we bought our house and became an instant convert to the joys of digging in the dirt and reaping the fruits of my labors. To help us transform our yard, my husband and I hired a landscape designer. David led us to envision our yard in new ways, and he started us on our way to designing a beautiful and functional garden.

I enjoy weeding, planting flowers, vegetables and drought-tolerant plants, and sitting in the sun reading beneath the canopy of the climbing roses. Sometimes on a sunny day, my clients and I even conduct coaching sessions out on the deck. For some reason though, over the course of the fall and winter, I spent less time working in the yard and the growth got out of hand. So much pruning and clean up work was needed that I was overwhelmed. Consequently I spent less and less time working on it which only compounded the problem. I was no longer finding the garden a sanctuary nor a form of meditation.

So, we decided to hire David and his assistant to help us get the yard back under control. They spent a day of pruning and cleaning up. It was fun to work alongside the experts, as I took occasional breaks from my work inside. I asked David questions about pruning and ideas for planting. They hauled away a full truckload of green debris.

The yard now has an open, spare look. Branches have been cut back and leaves removed. Now the climbing roses, the centerpiece of our back yard, are ready for new growth, buds and eventually delicate and beautiful pale pink roses. I look forward to this glorious transformation with the anticipation of a child who dips her toe in the ocean and squeals with both delight and a bit of shock at the coolness of the water. There is a sense of wonder about what is next as when a client who discovers something new about the way he sees the world and feels both excitement and fear. A transformation is possible.

If I had not asked for help, I might still feel overwhelmed by the overgrown yard. I also would not feel this renewed excitement about my garden. Though reluctant to hire others and frugal by nature, I have absolutely no regrets that I did so. Isn't that often the case? Once we finally decide to do something, we then wonder what took us so long?

I know many people like me, who spend their precious time on activities in which they are not particularly skillful or interested, rather than pay someone with expertise to help them. Many small business people fall into this trap. Worried about spending too much money, they don't, for example, hire an accountant to help with their taxes, and spend many hours and often aggravation on a task better accomplished by an expert.

If we take the time to look at priorities and how we can best use our strengths, we often will make different decisions. In the book, Soar With Your Strengths by Donald O. Clifton & Paula Nelson, they suggest that we "focus on strengths and manage weaknesses" and "find out what you don't do well and stop doing it".

These are radical ideas for people who see themselves as resourceful or thrifty or both. What if I hire someone to do my billing, update my website, clean my house? Might that free up my time and energy to focus on the things that I am better at and enjoy more? Yes, I can learn about search engine optimization and it might be interesting, but is it worth it to spend the time doing so? What is the cost/benefit analysis for this activity?

A colleague recently hired a virtual assistant (an independent entrepreneur who provides administrative, creative and/or technical services, utilizing advanced technological modes of communication and data delivery on a contractual basis) to help with her business. At first she wasn't exactly sure how she would use the assistant, but now can't believe she ever existed without one. She now has more time to focus on the parts of her business that only she can handle and that will result in building more business down the road.

What are your strengths? How can you manage your weaknesses? In what areas could you seek help from friends, assistants, or experts? What is stopping you?

© Sue Schleifer, February, 2009

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