How often do you try to be everything to everyone?

Today is August 27 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you try to be everything to everyone?” A common theme among those who successfully navigate the chaos is the belief that they are not responsible for the world. Translating dreams into reality takes precedence over making everyone happy or trying to be everything to everyone. Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde wrote “My wish isn’t to mean everything to everyone but something to someone.”

A high level of self-awareness would cause you to look at yourself and ask why you feel as though you must make everyone happy or try to be everything to everyone? Wilde directed his wish to someone, not everyone. Such an approach allows one to focus as you navigate the chaos. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Herbert Bayard Swope Sr. echoed Wilde’s comment and said "I can't give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time."

Navigating the chaos of life requires you to put yourself first many times. For that reason alone, it is difficult for many people to follow their own path as they are simply caught up in trying to make everyone around them happy. In an April 2015 Psychology Today article licensed psychologist Dr. Dana Charatan summarized her experience with clients who spend far too much time trying to please everyone:

“I can’t tell you how many times a new client has walked into my office and told me, ‘I don’t understand why I am so lonely. I bend over backwards to make everyone else happy. Why is it that no one seems to care how I feel?’ It is a common phenomenon in which, to feel safe and secure in our relationships, we can easily stop focusing on our own needs and wishes and put our energy into accommodating everyone else’s. The problem: Most of the time, this strategy backfires on us.”

Such a strategy backfires because it involves people pleasing others at the expense of their own happiness. Why would you ignore your own needs to support someone else’s happiness? Are you trying to be everything to everyone as a way of punishing yourself for some wrong you may, or may not have, committed? Do you feel as though you are not worthy of being happy? If so, why is that? If you find yourself trying to be everything to everyone, have you noticed how that has impacted your ability to navigate the chaos and translate your dreams into reality?

While this is a phenomenon with inter-personal relationships, so too is being everything to everyone an issue in the business world. As Jim Joseph wrote in an October 2017 Entrepreneur article:

“There is a fundamental rule in marketing that takes some discipline and some getting used to, but it's undeniably true: You can't be everything for everybody. It is impossible to build a business and market a brand in a way that serves everyone. First, you cannot possibly please everyone all the time and, second, you cannot possibly offer everything that everyone would want all the time either. It is simply impossible. We feel better doing that because it feels like we are reducing risk and keeping our options open. It is quite the opposite. When we try to be everything for everybody, we run the risk of being nothing for nobody. We end up watering down our business proposition and our brand promise to be as broad as possible. We become so vague that no one knows what we are offering, and our potential customers turn to other, more specific options.”

Joseph’s observation about the concerns entrepreneurs need to be aware of when it comes to being everything for everybody are equally applicable for relationships. Of note is his statement ‘we run the risk of being nothing for nobody.’ If you are so preoccupied with trying to make everyone happy and being everything for everybody, when do you have time for yourself? When do you allow yourself the time you need to explore life, reflect upon your experience, and determine the best next step for you?

Astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson understands the value of providing himself enough time to explore life when he wrote:

“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.”

It would be difficult, if not impossible, for you to create your own love, your own meaning, and your own motivation if you are busy trying to be everything to everyone.