I would imagine that the organizers of the Oscars are pretty perturbed with Eddie Murphy right now. He just bailed out of hosting the academy awards after learning that his friend, producer Brett Ratner, resigned (long story, google it). Normally, I would think- "Wow, what a prima donna. He made a commitment, he should stick to it." Now I'm not so sure. The situation under which he made the agreement had changed. Maybe he decided he didn't feel good about doing the show without his friend for whatever reason. So he backed out. It happens all the time.
I was supposed to be somewhere else today. A dear friend invited me to take part in a life coaching clinic with her at a huge conference in downtown San Francisco. We were to be volunteers, laser coaching participants in 15-20 minute sessions for several hours. It was for a good cause, but not anything near or dear to my heart. But my friend was excited about it, so I was excited about it.
My friend called me last weekend to tell me she broke her leg and was now unable to drive, much less hobble around a large convention center. I soon realized that I was now committed to go to this event alone-where the organizers were expecting 30,000 people. Where I didn't know a soul, and my only anchor to this event was stuck at home, laid up and unable to participate. My friend later told me she was really surprised by my terror, because I am such an extrovert and never seem to shy away from a social occasion. True, I told her, but on my terms. She had no idea that crowds give me hives, and that the thought of being there without her literally made me ill. A wave of nausea washed over me, and then I tried to talk myself into going to the event alone. Try as I might, I couldn't let go of the sick feeling I had inside, or the urge to run for the hills.
So, I did the irresponsible thing and cancelled. Yeah, I did. Even though I had committed to being there to volunteer my time and talents for a good cause. Even though I knew the organizer was probably having a hard enough time replacing one coach, and now, I was asking her to replace two. Even though it was a great opportunity to create new business contacts and meet potential new clients. I didn't even have any sort of scheduling conflict I could blame, although it did run through my mind that I could make up a story. Yes, I could lie and tell the organizer that I wasn't actually flaky, but this pretend thing had happened to me and so I just couldn't make it to the event, and sorry, sorry, sorry.....etc. But, that's not what I did. I told her the truth. I told her that I knew that I had committed to this event, but now that the situation had changed (i.e., my friend can't be there, and now, I don't want to be there without her), and I was very uncomfortable participating alone. I gave her a week's notice to find someone else. I wished her luck and told her I was genuinely sorry that I felt I needed to back out. I'm sure she's pissed, and I totally understand why she would be.
Here's the thing I want to discuss- the situation that I had agreed to be a part of changed. When I made the agreement, it was to be my friend and I, super buddies, volunteering and saving the world...blah blah blah. But she broke her leg....and for me, that changed the game. Even a few years ago, backing out would have been unthinkable to me. I would have gone to the event, after dreading it for a week, felt queasy, fulfilled my obligation, and then been pissed off at myself for following through with something that didn't feel good to me. Because I used to do things all the time that felt icky to me, and I used to think I had no choice. I would have acted on thoughts like "Once you make a commitment, you stick to it. No matter what. Just buck up and get it done." What I have realized after years of working to become my most authentic self, is that I can sometimes change my mind when the parameters of situation I agreed to change.
Crazy, right? I can change my mind, even if the only reason is cuz I don't want to. I've learned that it is important for me to consider my feelings as well as the feelings of others when I make a commitment. Since coming upon this radical idea, my life has become immeasurably better, lighter and happier. I almost always do what I say I'm going to do when I say I'm going to do it- but now I give myself an escape hatch in case of "feeling icky" about it. And you know what? People get over it. Because I am reliable 99% of the time to other people. It's just that now I'm reliable 100% of the time to me.