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How To Deal With Overwhelming Guilt In Business & Life

Do you ever experience (overwhelming) guilt? Do you eat and feel guilt? Work and feel guilt? Play, rest or spend time with your family and feel guilt? Everywhere you are not, do you feel guilt for not being there? Everything you do, even for yourself, do you feel the guilt of not doing something else? I believe there are 8 ways to overcome, and even master, those feelings of guilt. That is not to ignore it, because guilt has an important purpose. It is to realise what purpose the guilt serves, see it for what it is, and then let go of where it is holding you back and not serving you.

I wrote a short excerpt (not worthy of being called a poem) below on guilt, that created reach and discussion on social media, as well as an overwhelming response on my “Disruptive Entrepreneur” podcast. Here it it, with the 9 ways to overcome guilt below. Can you relate to this?

Everyday; the guilt
Everyday guilt consumes me
When I’m working, guilt I’m not with my family
When I’m with my family, guilt I’m not working
So many ideas and guilt that I’m not implementing them all
When I make money, the guilt that others don’t have any
When I start tasks, guilt that I don’t finish them
When I hurt people, the guilt of how I made them feel
When I fail, the guilt of the people I have let down
I don’t know if the guilt ever goes away.
Sometimes it eats me up inside.
In a sadistic way I think it drives us to spend our time wisely, do the best we can, and try to be kind to others.
I think it is part of being human.
Do you feel it too?

Here are 8 things that should help you deal with and master guilt:

1. Don’t deny it

Guilt is a human emotion. and every human emotion serves a purpose. Don’t try to ignore it or suppress it. What you suppress you will be forced to express. Simply notice yourself feeling it. Try to disassociate yourself from it as part of who you are, and see it as a feedback emotion to check in that you are dong the right things.

2. What is its function/purpose?

The purpose of guilt is to ensure we are focusing on the right things. If we didn’t experience it, we should do all manner of evil and feel numb. It keeps us in check and in balance between the selfish and the selfless. In more modern times, guilt may arise if you are focusing on the wrong tasks or if you perceived you have wronged yourself or someone else. Again, notice it, but evaluate it’s purpose, in the knowledge that it is serving you somehow. Wisdom is discovering that balanced service to you.

3. Too selfish; too selfless – guilt is the feedback

Neither extreme serves yourself or humanity. Too selfish and people rebel against you. Too selfless and you become weak and irrelevant. Guilt is the feedback mechanism that forces you to remain in balance to serve and survive as an individual and as a species. Selfless are like Lemmings who walk off a cliff, selfish are those who get outed, incarcerated or in extreme cases assassinated. You’ll experience self guilt or resentment when giving without receiving, and guilt in the form of regret when receiving without giving. And as such it
serves you well in both cases.

4. Plan & compartmentalise all your KLAs & KRAs

KLAs are Key Life Areas and KRAs are Key Results Areas. KLAs are the things most important to you in your life such as health, family. KRAs are the tasks most important in your career, business, or secondary, non survival areas; maybe a passion or your profession. If you focus on KLAs and KRAs, you will minimise guilt and maximise fulfilment. As soon as you get distracted away from them, guilt will occur as feedback. You feel far less guilt that you should be doing something else when you have compartmentalised your time, because
everything has it’s time and place and priority. So plan in your day and diary your KLAs and KRAs first, early, and above all other tasks. I wrote “Routine = Results” to show you in a step by step way how to plan and manage your time, diary and life.

5. When it turns into beating yourself up…

…it’s time to take stock and a step back. Guilt serves you until it consumes you. If you feel it consuming you, and you start beating yourself up for feeling it, thus compounding the pain further, then STOP. Be kind to yourself. The world will do a good job of beating you up, so start crediting yourself for the good things you do. Pick something of high priority that you know you will feel great about doing, and get it done. Pat yourself on the back for doing it, then move onto the next. Prioritise and execute.

6. Love & accept yourself for who you are

You are perfect as you are; successes and mistakes. The harder you are on yourself, the more guilt you’ll feel when not living up to that persona. This can be a never ending curse of wanting to be better, more or different. Look at how far you’ve come, not just how far you want to go. Allow yourself time to rest, time to play, time to be bored and time to heal if required. Be clear on your strengths and weaknesses, and focus your time and energy in areas you can provide value and have skills in, which in turn increases your self worth.

7. Let go of what you can’t control

You can’t control everything, or everyone. You are not responsible for everything. You can’t be in all places at once. You can’t be great at everything. You can’t live up to people’s expectations they hold of you. All you can control is who you are, what you do, and how you treat yourself and others. Focus on being as good at that as you can, and let go of the rest. Expecting outcomes that you have no power to control will cause you much unnecessary pain. Liberate yourself by accepting what is.

8. Don’t try to be all things to all people

A sure way to be great at nothing is to try to be great at everything. Demands of parenting, career, management and leadership, friends, social media and being a role model can take their toll. It’s fine to not master them all. It’s even fine to be crap at the ones not important to you. It’s fine to have a handful of true friends. It’s fine to let go of being who someone else wants you to be. It’s easier than ever to outsource your weaknesses. It’s good to say no.

Guilt is an emotion where you live in the past. It is a delusion that past events or the way you were should have been different. Yet you can feel them in the present moment, feeling that you should be doing something else, robbing you of the gift of life to be experienced in the now. If you are going to do something. commit to it, work, rest or play. Then the guilt goes away.


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