Although it may sound harsh and selfish, don’t do anything that will not yield you a beneficial return. View your work and activities through the lens of budgeting and investing. Labor and activities not producing a useful return—eliminate them. Does a fruitful return necessarily mean money? No. It can mean anything deemed valuable to you. When you constantly feel overextended, take an opportunity to see why. Are you trying to do more than you’re able to do? Are you attempting to solve all of the problems of those around you? Are you more preoccupied with the affairs of others than your own? If your answer is “yes” to those aforementioned questions, then your life is rife with imbalances.
Have enough courage to turn down work that does not pay. Be willing to disengage or not participate in activities that will not improve you in some way. When you know your worth, then you will place a demand and/or price on requests people make. If someone wants you to do something for him or her, then he or she should expect to give something in exchange for the request. He or she cannot go into the supermarket and pick up a bag of grapes without supplying the cashier money in exchange for the item.
Face it—we live in an exchange society: you want something; you give something.
For those who have a problem with this exchange society, they’re really the ones who are selfish. Why would you want someone to do something for you and you not at least offer to do something in return for him or her?
My dad taught me to work smart—not hard. Yes, I know his teaching is counter to the American ethos of “hard work pays.” However, does hard work always pay? How about most of the time? If you desire for your work to be meaningful and your activities to be meaningful, then you better attach expected returns to that work and those activities. Don’t become so altruistic to the point you lose yourself, lose your self-worth.
Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison