When Marie met Darcy, she immediately fell in love with his kind heart. Darcy never said no to any good cause, and as there are plenty of good causes, his practical skills and good nature kept him in high demand.
Before they married, Darcy’s ongoing contributions helped Marie and Darcy stay connected. They worked together, lending their time and skills to projects they both believed in. This was a very satisfying time; both Marie and Darcy felt that they were making their world a better place.
Time went on; marriage and the subsequent blessing of a set of twins brought a few changes!
Now, Darcy is feeling unsatisfied. Despite all of his efforts over the years, he sees little progress. Everywhere he looks, there is still a need to be filled, a project to be done, an injustice that should be remedied. Without any sense of accomplishment, he feels only fatigue and pressure. The joy that he used to get from contributing has disappeared.
Further, according to Marie, he’s neglecting her. The twins need his attention, the house needs painting, the garden needs weeding, and on it goes. He and Marie used to be so idealistic, so in tune with each other. What happened? More importantly, how to change it?
When Darcy tried expressing his situation in the form of a picture, what he visualized was a huge rock wall blocking his path. Everywhere he looks, he’s been chipping away: a little chunk here, a big hole there, a few scratches somewhere else. But for all his valiant efforts, nowhere has he made any substantial headway.
So, Darcy, “What would you need to get a sense of accomplishment?”
“I’d have to make a hole through the wall. I’d have to concentrate all my effort in one place and let the rest go, at least for a while.”
“How does that apply to your life?”
Darcy wisely chose to enlist Marie’s help. She still loves and respects his willingness to step up when he’s needed, but she wants and needs time with him, too.
Between the two of them, they looked at the many requests for Darcy’s time and decided to select two that they felt best reflected their shared values and priorities. To encourage more family time, one project they chose was something that they could all do together.
Darcy and Marie agreed that other requests would be handled with this simple statement, “I’m sorry; We’re not able to do that now.”
That great feeling of accomplishment and contribution that comes from helping others is one effective way to satisfy what choice theory defines as our “basic need for power.” For the satisfaction to continue, though, it’s helpful to be able to see that your contribution is, in fact, making a difference.
For Darcy, focusing his efforts toward a few projects where he can have a real impact will make it more likely that he’ll see results. The bonus of involving his family can help build those relationships so that they are more satisfying for everybody.
Do you pick your battles? Or do you find yourself spread too thin?