“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.
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