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Where Guilt Comes From and What Leaders Can Do about It

little rubber gumby type figure with sad face and hands in air

As a leader, what are you doing to deal with guilt?

For entrepreneurs, creators, writers, parents, and others who wear many hats or share multiple responsibilities, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or frustrated with guilt about everything that needs to be done or should be done. On one hand, family or personal responsibilities pull us. On the other hand, many of us with day jobs have side hustles. Those who are full-time entrepreneurs or creators have multiple projects or businesses to attend to and each of us has a purpose. But with purpose comes responsibility. Passion, and priorities in our lives must be tended to. Neglect of either may spell disaster.

Where does guilt come from? Guilt comes from that place where passion and priority intersect with expectation. Expectations whether realistic or unrealistic come with a fair amount of guilt.  Guilt comes from all of those things that pull our heart and mind in different directions.  an intersection sign reads passion priorities expectations and other stuff with guilt in the very centerUnchecked anxiety, and the pressure that comes from guilt can damage relationships, stunt or impede our growth, and make us otherwise miserable. In turn, we risk making others unhappy as well.  Believe it or not, we can experience guilt not only from perceived “bad” or “dreaded” things but also from the need or desire to do “good” or “positive” things, and that includes things that bring us joy.

Guilt from good things (family, church, volunteerism, exercise or wellness activities) can sometimes be even worse because we look at those good things we want to do, and feel shame for not being able to meet expectations or devote as much time to them as we wish.  One of the worst things can do is to allow guilt to consume us and block us from things that need done, or things we really want to do.  As leaders, we may sometimes feel overwhelmed, but we don’t need our team or colleagues to see us that way.  We’re here to build the team’s confidence and complete a mission together, not to project our anxiety, stress or worry onto them, otherwise whose fault is it when the mission fails?

As a husband, parent, friend, volunteer, and advocate with several side hustles, I find myself facing these types of situations all the time.  I often have to remind myself the following four things:

  1. Communication preserves relationships and relationships come first. Leaders express appreciation to the people in their lives. They talk to them about shared needs and afford them the respect of communicating their plans and priorities. They don’t need to know just that you have a lot on your plate.  They need to know that they’re on the plate too!
  2. Careers and side hustles are important, but they’re also choices.  Leaders use caution and discretion in what they choose to take on, and they admit when circumstances need to change, and change them. Learning to say yes and no definitively is a crucial skill worth honing.
  3. Our guilt manifests negativity which can be off-putting.  Leaders who choose also to be advocates cannot be effective if they’re consumed or haunted by negativity, frustration, or shame.  All of those risk hindering reputations and turn others off.
  4. Budgeting time is a necessity for success. Be honest about your priorities and your passions and try to set aside time in your budget for all of those things.  Rank each of them and remove anything you can from the bottom of the list.

Albert Camu said, “Life is the sum of all our choices.”  What will you choose? Will you choose to lead or allow guilt to rule your life?  Resolve today to communicate, learn to say no, avoid negativity, budget your time, and rescue yourself from unnecessary shame and guilt.  It is possible to be happy while you hustle and chase your passions.  Also, I’d love to hear how you deal with guilt.  Search me on your favorite social media and let me know!

Who is Chester? A leader in education, non-profit advocacy, parenting issues, access, policy, and blogging culture, Chester has been quoted in major media outlets such as CNBC, Yahoo, the Washington Post, Forbes Leadership, and others. He is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and Edutopia. You can learn more about Chester and his Amazon #1 Best Seller at www.purplepeopleleaderbook.com or www.chestergoad.com. He and his wife live in Tennessee with their teenage son. 

3 comments on “Where Guilt Comes From and What Leaders Can Do about It

  1. […] This post first appeared here on Chester Goad’s personal website. […]

  2. […] This post first appeared here on Chester Goad’s personal website. […]

  3. […] what any of that is. While it is easy to become guilt-ridden by not meeting expectations of others (Check out my recent article on Guilt here). It’s possible to get past the guilt, and to lessen the harmful effects of those light jabs, […]

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