Seven Steps to a Happy Work Life Balance
Part Four
Learn to Ask for Help (and use it!)

There’s an old saying: “It takes a village to raise a child”. And yet, so many of us seem to take such pride in doing everything ourselves. Even when this makes us unhappy, stressed, tired and angry and possibly pretty resentful too. So why do we carry on this way, refusing to ask for help, when the result isn’t really any good for anyone?!

So in the perfect world (what the heck is that anyway?), your parents, your siblings and a gaggle of friends might live close by and have loads of spare time of their own to be knocking down your door demanding to take things off your plate, do your ironing, take the kids out for the day, do that decorating/gardening/diy that needs doing.

Chances are that “perfect world” is not your world. It’s not mine, and it’s not the world of anyone I know, either. So if we want help, we need to ask. It’s such a simple thing…but so many of us just don’t do it!

In a recent survey I asked 400 working mums about various aspects of their lives. One question simply asked: “If you could get help from someone to improve one aspect of your life, what would it be?” The responses were varied. But the majority had one thing in common: the help these women wanted was easily available and there for the taking if they wanted it enough to go out and get it.

Today, I have some questions for you:
  1. What could you really use some help with at the moment?
  2. What difference would it make to have that help?
  3. Where could you get this help from?
  4. What is actually stopping you from asking for it?
  5. How can you overcome that?

Usually, when we don’t do something that we know might help us or might improve our lives, it’s because we’re afraid of something. The fears aren’t always rationale, but they are real. Here are some examples I come across all the time:

“If I hire a cleaner I’m afraid people will think I’m a terrible mother/person”

“If I ask my friend to babysit I’m afraid she will think I am not putting my children first”

“If I ask my friend for that favour I’m afraid she won’t be able to do it and will say no, and then I will feel bad for upsetting her”

“If I ask for help, I’m afraid of looking incompetent/like I can’t cope”

Where these fears are stopping you not only asking for help but from moving other aspects of your life forward, working with a coach can help you work out at a deeper level how to change how you feel, and start to make different choices that, on balance, will bring you better results and greater happiness.

Steps you can take right now

For those of you who feel ready to pluck up the courage to do something to make a difference to your overwhelming to do list, my challenge to you right now is to “feel the fear and do it anyway”, because the benefits are likely to far outweigh the risks.

Start small: ask one person for help with one thing once – it doesn’t have to be a lifelong contract! See how it feels. Do it again.

Once asking for help in a small way like this feels comfortable, go for something a bit bigger: find a cleaner, someone to do your ironing or mow your lawns, a childminder that will have your children once a week or a friend that will babysit once a month to give you some time back to do some things you enjoy. None of these have to cost you more than £10 or £20 a week….a small price to pay to get a couple of hours to yourself to get some exercise or recharge the batteries and reduce your stress levels (which everyone will benefit from) or simply to be able to have time to focus on something else that needs your personal attention.

And then build up to the bigger things: what can you ask your partner or children to do regularly to take on more of the strain at home or with family? Be realistic: if he’s never taken the rubbish out to the bins despite your asking him to every week, he probably won’t start doing it now. But if there are things you’ve never asked for and if you’ve allowed your partner and children to do little around the house because you’ve been doing it all yourself for years on end, it’s hardly surprising they aren’t beating down the door to do it all by themselves!

So don’t be a martyr – find help, use it.

Everyone wins…

The truth is, people love to be asked to help, they love being needed, wanted and feeling like they can make a difference to you. And if you feel guilty, embarrassed or like it’s too much to ask someone for their support, it might help you to know it’s actually proven that doing something that helps someone else makes the person giving the help happier.

So when you ask for help, you’re not just taking a step towards greater happiness for yourself, you’re helping someone else feel happier too – is that a result or what?!

If you’re finding it difficult to develop the confidence to ask for help, or want to tackle the guilt you feel every time you do, don’t for get you can always get in touch and have a chat about how we can work together on this in a much more personal and in-depth way.

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