Skip to Main Content
by Kristine Schoonmaker | March 05, 2013


Do you feel like you’re always getting volun-told for things? I’m talking about those sneaky things that appear “voluntary” but are laced with all kinds of underlying expectations. It could be a fundraiser at work you’re “strongly encouraged” to participate in, something friends expect like going to every birthday party or shower, or even something society expects like how you’re supposed to live your life. 

Usually, they come out of nowhere. You have no idea how it happened or how to possibly get out of them. And that’s the worst. You feel aggravated, resentful and overwhelmed because you’ve been pressured to do something that should be optional. Add to that your priorities that have to take a back seat, a desire to please people, and that pesky sense of responsibility, and the whole situation becomes one hot mess! 

We all want to be responsible for our agenda because our time and money is precious. We want to choose how and when we spend it. Ideally, you want to make sure you stay in control by having clear boundaries for how and when you will give your time, energy, and resources. But in the meantime, if you’ve found yourself committed to something that you know for certain you can’t back out of, here are four tips to make the best of it and reclaim some control of the situation. 

  1. Use a lifeline! Let’s say your boss gave you an extra assignment that’s way outside of your job responsibilities and you’re in a panic wondering how you’re going to get that, and your real job, done. This is the perfect time to get some help. Delegate parts of the assignment to a co-worker or find a mentor that can give you some advice on the most efficient way to complete it. Simply connecting with someone who can lend a small hand will immediately relieve some of the pressure and will seriously cut down on the time you have to spend.
  2. Play to your strengths. Fortunately, we are ALL born with unique gifts and talents. And the great news is these things come really easily to us. So easily in fact, we tend to forget about them. Think about your situation and ask “what parts of this would be super easy for me?”  Focus your energy on those things and try to line up other people for the rest. Or, see if there is a way to tweak the assignment a bit to play more to your natural gifts. It will feel like a lot less effort.
  3. Find your silver lining. Worrying about everyone else and what they think is probably what got you into this mess in the first place so now it’s time to get a little selfish. Every experience, especially the miserable ones, present some opportunity to learn something, experiment, meet someone you’ve wanted to get to know, or even push you out of your comfort zone. So instead of wallowing in the fact that you don’t want to do this, look for the upside so you too can get something out of the deal. It doesn’t have to be a chore.
  4. Hurry up and Get It Done! Whether it’s the laundry or chairing this year’s United Way campaign, most of the time things we dread are never as bad as they seem. But we waste a whole lot of time resisting doing them. So rather than digging your heels in more, take a deep breath, let go of the resistance, and just get to work. Then it’s over and you can go right back to your normal chipper self! 

Simply changing how you approach the task or changing how you think about it can make all the difference in the world. So I’m going to invite you to take a moment and see if there’s an area of your life where you allow yourself to be volun-told to do things you don’t want. Try out one of these strategies this week and let me know how it changes things for you. Or, if you have another tip for dealing with being volun-told, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. 

Kristine Schoonmaker, founder of Bold Dish, Inc., is dedicated to helping women create meaningful lives and invaluable friendships.  Her eZine Bold Dish On the Go and signature “dinner parties in a box” marry life coaching and party planning to give you everything you need to have more fun, meaningful get-togethers with your girlfriends. If you’re ready to boldly create the life you’re craving, learn more and get your FREE eZine subscription at