Letting the air out of your tires

RICKENBACKER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ohio -- A friend recently told me of a frustrating lesson he'd experienced. Work had been pretty hectic and some extra duties had actually been busier than his primary role with the Wing. But, for all he knew, he was handling everything well.  Then the lesson came.

On the way home one evening, my friend noticed low air pressure in his front tires. Naturally, he stopped at the service station to fix the problem. What we would all do, right? He got the hose, placed the connector on the valve stem and, low and behold, rather than fill with air his tires went flat! As you can imagine, he was frustrated! No matter what he tried, the tires would not fill up. It was night, the kids were in the car, and all he wanted to do was fill up his tires and go home. In exasperation, he threw up his hands to give up.

And then it hit him. He had gotten the hose... check! He connected the hose to his valve stems... check! However, he hadn't noticed that the air hose had a lever. All the hard work and energy he spent on this frustrating event had not worked simply because of that one little detail. My friend hadn't squeezed the lever to release air into his tires! The result was completely the opposite of what he had expected.

The lesson was sometimes we seem to be handling the stress and pressure that comes with Life, only to realize that those items are taking more of a toll on us than we realize! It's not weakness, and it's not illness or instability. It may simply just be a tendency on our part to take on more tasks and responsibilities than we should.

Life can do that sometimes - sneak up on us. The key is to be sure that we are doing the things that build our ability to respond well when we find that we've "let the air out of our tires."

So, what can we do when we find ourselves doing this?

First, do what my friend did. Once he realized what was going on, he squeezed the lever! Correct the mistake - Spend time with people you love or take some time to rest.

Next, feel free to lighten your load. Look at your responsibilities and identify which ones are priorities. We are a "can do" culture. We take on a lot. If we are not careful, however, every responsibility, task and commitment can become a first or highest priority and that is not realistic. Everything cannot be in the number one spot at the same time; it just doesn't work. So, reevaluate and put the number one thing into the number one spot.

Third, be willing to say... (can I even write this?)   Be willing to say "no."  Whew... There, I wrote it! Saying "no" can be difficult, but it goes along with the concept of everything being number one priority. Often, more is asked of us than we have room for. When I worked in churches, we spoke of the 80/20 principle. That is, 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. Those of us who are asked and reliably carry out a task are usually asked again and others with a task or need see what we've done and ask for our help.

It's tempting to believe, "if I don't agree to do this, it may not get done" while at the same time, someone wants to do something extra and is left wondering why they didn't get asked!

Take a look at those things that you have identified as priority and at what you are being asked. Do they match? Say "yes" to those things that fit your priorities and "no" to those that do not. I realize that some tasks and commitments are not so voluntary. You may be given an assignment or it may be a job requirement. The key is to identify realistic priorities and make decisions based on those priorities.

A recent study found that 75% of 7600 participants felt "burnt out" by their work. It is my hope that these tips will help you avoid becoming a part of that 75% or to remain in the 25% if you are already there.

Last, go do something you enjoy! If you fish, go fishing. If you like to shop, go shopping. Go to a cabin and do nothing, if you can. Read a book or work on a hobby. Do something that recharges your batteries. In the end, when you come back to the task that is required, you will be better equipped to complete it and you will be more willing to move on to the next commitment.

Here's hoping you don't let the air out of your own tires!