How to remain unmolested by obligations?

“The trick Nikhil is to be largely unmolested by obligations” Twitter wisdom courtesy Swapan Seth. This comment, which he had posted a while ago in response to something I had posted, got me thinking.

There is duty and there is a sense of obligation. Duty is what I signed up for. That I must deliver on. Obligation on the other hand is much more in my head related to what I feel is expected of me. Much of this may or may not be true. I could be hallucinating like ChatGPT to fill in some blanks.

Let me take two examples. Duty. I signed up to run a workshop for a client. A conflicting personal engagement came up and I chose to honour my commitment to run the workshop as planned and that is absolutely my duty.

On the other hand, I was invited to be on a Jury for a PR award function, with relatively short notice. Normally I would have tried my best to accommodate the request assuming that the person asking needed support. I would have rearranged my schedule and found a way to pitch in out of a sense of obligation. This time I politely excused myself and I believe I made the right choice.

My time and my attention are interlinked. Where I chose to focus my attention is where I spend my time. The key word here is choice. I must keep reminding myself that life is just a series of choices. I must make them wisely.

To be obliging is one thing but to live a life of obligation is another together. The analogy of an email inbox comes to mind. If I spend my day only replying to other’s emails then I am living life on their terms. Instead, if my email inbox is just a small part of my day and I pay attention to it but don’t let it define my day, then I am filling my life up with the things I need and want to do.

“Will they think I am rude if I refuse to eat the lovely food they have put in front of me?” (I felt obliged on two occasions recently and both times I found a way to do what my body wanted me to instead of listening to my mind which felt obliged to be pleasant). In the first instance, I explained why I did not want to eat and in the second I simply asked if it would be okay for me to have it a few hours later. Both exchanges were pleasant and my day was significantly better for having made the right choice.

This is a new thought for me to explore. An even tougher one to act on. I dislike conflict and I am in many ways a people pleaser. To listen to ‘me’ and truly understand what I want and need is an all-new muscle to build.

I must look into the face of what I usually turn away from. Will I let the hand of habit take me down its usual path or maybe hold the hand of discomfort and see where it leads? I will try it out for a while and see how it suits me and those around me. Let’s see if I emerge from this experiment unmolested.

Please don’t feel obliged to agree with me.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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