by Beth Williams, Executive Director for Human Resources, University of Mary Washington
“Hey, I know it’s super last minute, but …” Thus began a text I received one morning at work a few weeks ago. A friend of mine was extending an invitation to see a band from the 80’s – my high school days and the best music decade, ever! The concert was that same night in DC and the band was none other than Duran Duran (if you know, you know). I love live music, but I’m not a big concert-goer; nonetheless, for about a week I had been seeing Facebook posts about their current tour and what a spectacular show they still put on. Maybe it was nostalgia, or just the fact that such a seasoned band was still packing huge arenas and putting on a killer show, but I had been experiencing a bit of uncharacteristic FOMO.
Fast forward to the last minute invitation from my friend – I don’t typically do last minute, but geez, an extra free ticket to that very concert, and someone else was providing the transportation… it felt like the universe was urging me to go! So what was my initial reaction to the invitation? Total ambivalence. What?! Why?! Well, I told myself, “you are a responsible professional”, and proceeded to mentally list all the reasons I shouldn’t go:
- It’s Wednesday, the middle of the workweek!
- I’d have to leave work by 2:30, which I hadn’t planned for.
- We wouldn’t get home until after midnight and I have work tomorrow!
- I don’t want my staff to feel like I’m skipping out on them.
- I don’t want to be seen as shirking my duties.
Earlier in my life, I may have stopped there and allowed my hyper-critical self to talk me out of going. However, with age comes perspective and a bit of wisdom. I was being presented with this prime opportunity to do something I knew I’d really enjoy and would likely not have the opportunity to do again, so I allowed space to challenge my thinking and posed these questions:
- Will anything at work suffer if I leave a couple hours early? (hint: no)
- Which will I regret more, not going to the concert or leaving work a couple hours early?
Those two thought-challenge questions brought immediate clarity and I committed to going to the concert. Those of you who have the gift of spontaneity are probably thinking “what’s with all the angst and analysis? Just go, already!” I agree! However, those of us who tend to over-analyze and wrestle with hyper-critical self-talk usually have to talk ourselves into being spontaneous (weird, I know). The concert was AMAZING! We had a perfect night of dinner, drinks and dancing and the show was truly fabulous, as were my two concert buddies. I didn’t worry about work at all. And what of my initial “concerns”? Let’s see:
- It’s Wednesday, the middle of the workweek! – So what?
- I’d have to leave work by 2:30, which I hadn’t planned for. – So? I still worked most of the day, had no urgent deadlines and no meetings scheduled the rest of the day.
- We wouldn’t get home until after midnight and I have work tomorrow! – Yeah, this is a bit more difficult at 51 and I knew I’d be dragging the next day, but I survived.
- I don’t want my staff to feel like I’m skipping out on them. – Not only was my team supportive, they were excited for me! This also allowed me to practice what I preach to them about work/life balance and doing things that bring us joy.
- I don’t want to be seen as shirking my duties. – Everything was fine the next day and, as it turns out, absolutely no one thought I had suddenly turned into an irresponsible reprobate.
No regrets!! For me, this experience was not only a great opportunity to make memories (and dance like the teenager I once was to the legendary Duran Duran), but also a lesson in what I have come to think of as intentional spontaneity, identifying more opportunities for fun (planned and unplanned) and saying yes to them more often. I hope we all continue to challenge our own self-critical thinking and limiting beliefs and embrace more opportunities to experience joy.