Mettle 1. n. courage, fortitude, pluck, ardor, verve. 2. on one’s mettle, in the position of being ready to do one’s best.
Metal and mettle both rust if neglected. They lose their shine. They become tarnished and weakened. People who have lost their mettle no longer have sufficient courage or enthusiasm to take on the world and rise above the challenges it brings them. They become dull, apathetic, ready to accept second or even third best.
How can you see whether this is starting to happen to you? Here’s how to make a brief audit of the state of your mettle: a way to inquire into the health of your inner spark, the part of you that can transform your life and outlook—if only it still has enough strength to do so.Advertising
1) Do your actions match your values? A sure sign of inner corrosion is when you are ready to betray your personal convictions in the name of expediency.
Everyone has to make compromises from time to time, but some values are too important to sidestep for the sake of fitting in, making money, or having a quiet life. No one was ever moved to do their best, or overcome a challenge, by compromise or taking the easy way out. Only ideals inspire. Lose those ideals and you lose most of what makes you who you are. You become an obedient robot.
If you realize that you’ve given up on things that really matter to you—that compromise and accommodation have become habitual—ask yourself this the next time you look in the mirror: Can you still respect the person you’ve become? If not, it’s time to change. Those values and ideals are still within you, waiting to inspire you again.
2) Are you wasting time on goals and activities you really care little about? You have this one life, this one chance to live in a way that will make you feel proud, win or lose. Every moment spent on some activity that means next to nothing to you is a moment you could have allocated to living your dreams.Advertising
Take a good look at your life. Is it what you want? Is it going in a direction that you believe is important? When you are old, will you recall this time with pleasure—or with sadness and amazement that you could have wasted so much time for so little that truly mattered?
While you still have the time, stop and review what you are doing. If necessary, reverse course. Do it now. Your hopes and dreams are too important to throw away through neglect or fearfulness. Time spent on activities that you don’t value is time stolen from your life.
3) Does your life add energy to this world or suck it away? Are the people you interact with enlivened by having you around? Or are you an energy sink: a presence that draws energy and liveliness out of everything, leaving it grayer and duller as you pass along?Advertising
People who are truly on their mettle—people who spread enthusiasm, fun, excitement, and ardor for life—pass through this world leaving everyone that they meet feeling just a little better, brighter, more energized as a result.
Any internal tarnish doesn’t affect just you. It lowers the spirit of everyone who must deal with you. Have you ever been served a meal by a waiter who was miserable, glum, surly, or apathetic? The kind of person whose mere presence robbed the food of some of its taste? And have you even encountered the opposite: a waitress clearly enjoying her job, lively, enthusiastic, ready with a big smile and an infectious cheerfulness?
Which one are you? Which do you want to be? What will it take to bring back the smile to your face and the spring to your step?Advertising
You can let life’s problems and cruelties rob you of your mettle, your shine; or you can devote time regularly to polishing away the smears and stains, so that your courage and enthusiasm to live life as you believe it should be lived can shine through again.
You can only find happiness and satisfaction by starting with the life you have today. No one can do this for you; each person must find his or her own way. If what you have is dirtied and dulled, that’s still where you must start from—right here, right now. Until you clean yourself and restore your mettle, your spirit and ardor, you’ll either stay in your present position or decline still further.
Life is good only when you make it so. That’s a task for which all of us truly need to be on our mettle.
Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life. Recent articles there on similar topics include How to save yourself from being hooked again and Binocular vision. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization
The Gentle Art of Saying No
It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.
But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.
What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.
But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:
- Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
- Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
- Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
- Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
- Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
- Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
- Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
- Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
- Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
- It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.
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