We’re all committed. (Or perhaps we should be!)
One client, a workaholic entrepreneur with ADHD (is there another kind?!) has committed to spend more time with her children. It’s important to her and it’s important to her family. She fully intends to leave work each day at 5:30 pm, but she has yet to follow through; instead, she continues to work past 6:30 or 7 pm.
Another client, a university student, must devote time to researching and writing an essay; he needs to ace this assignment to pass the course, and he’s committed to his academic success. However, he instead offers to help a classmate move over the weekend, taking up most of the time he had available for devote to his paper.
An ADHD client desperately looking for work, plans to contact prospective employers, but instead whiles away his days talking on the phone with his girlfriend, watching TV and other lower priority activities. He’s committed to finding a job, and he’s certainly committed to paying his bills!
Should You Be Committed?
In these examples, are my clients just bad people? No! Is there something wrong with them? No! Are they lying about their commitments? No! So what gives?
When speaking with them during their sessions, I was certain they were each committed to the projects we had identified at their top priorities. Each had a plan, and each wanted to succeed. It should have been easy but…
We often think of a “hidden agenda” as negative, a sneaky underlying objective that one person is perpetrating on another unsuspecting person. However, in the cases described above, each person is both the perpetrator and the victim of their own hidden agenda; they each had an underlying objective, one that remained hidden, even from them, that threw their priorities out of whack!
We all have these hidden agendas, promises we made to ourselves, usually as the result of some traumatic event in our childhood, that influence our actions daily. We’ve often had them so long that we don’t even recognize them anymore, at least, until they sneak up on us and confuse our priorities.
Our entrepreneur is divorced and is terrified of being destitute. Her hidden agenda is ensuring her security at all costs. The student fears not having friends, and so a hidden agenda of “being helpful so they’ll like me” rules his life without him even realizing it. Like many of us, our job searcher is afraid of rejection and so his hidden agenda is to “avoid rejection” which prevents him taking the risk of asking for a job, or even an interview.
What are your hidden agendas? Maybe you refuse to risk looking foolish, you never disturb or inconvenience others, you never allow yourself to be out of control or you reduce risks at any price. Somewhere in your past, you developed a belief that terrible things will happen if you don’t… work hard enough, help anyone who asks, do things perfectly or if you … ask someone for something, try something new and so on. There are more hidden agendas than there are people (some of us seem to collect them!)
What’s Your Hidden Agenda?
Each of our heroes is the victim of his or her own hidden agenda. What hidden agenda holds you as its unsuspecting victim? Have you made it a higher priority to avoiding anticipated financial ruin by accepting all work that comes your way than to spend time with your children? Are you more committed to “being a good friend” than you are to making good grades? Or are you more committed to avoiding ridicule by never trying anything new or risky so there’s no chance of making a mistake than you are of leaving a job you hate and trying to succeed in a new career?
The good news is that when you become aware of your hidden agendas, you can begin to stop their clandestine effects on your life. It’s natural for humans to develop these mechanisms to protect us from danger. However, we put the same mechanisms in place whether the danger is real or imagined. Once you recognize the mechanism, you can re-evaluate the perceived “danger” and uncover your “hidden” agenda. Once it’s uncovered, you are free to decide if it continues to serve a purpose.
How Can I Use This?
- First, notice how your hidden agendas control your life. Consider all the things you would do if only you didn’t have a hidden agenda to remind you of “horrific danger” looming at every corner. What is more important to you than the priorities you set in a moment of panic at a real (but no longer relevant) or imagined danger? What are you doing/not doing because of these hidden agendas?
- Where did your fears come from (Consider a childhood event or situation)? What’s the history of your fear? How did it serve you then? Though it really was a clever way to manage back then, is it still serving you?
- What do you think will happen if you choose not to let your hidden agendas rule your life? Look for evidence that they are not true. Look at other people’s behaviors, people who seem to live without fear of the consequences you envision, think of times when you didn’t heed your hidden agenda and the world did not end, or if you can’t find any, start testing its validity. Try “safe” tests and progress toward more daring tests.