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front-yard-picLessons for Life and Leadership from the Lawn

I wanted to name this series “Lessons from the Garden” because it sounds nice and gardens are beautiful. However, I kill plants inside and out on a regular basis so that seemed misleading. In truth, I spent much of the summer of 2016 weeding my front yard. It wasn’t glamorous and didn’t result in anything with splendid color. I toyed with the idea of “Lessons from the Yard,” but I thought that title made it sound like I was in prison. I decided on “lawn,” and whatever you call it, I learned a lot sitting in the grass for a summer.

Lesson 4: Peaky Blinders Syndrome

During the summer, I watched a British TV series called Peaky Blinders. It’s a post-World War I story about soldiers turned gangsters in England. It is a cool, but violent, show. I am not recommending that everyone watch it, but it does illustrate an interesting concept.

The Peaky Blinders gang had elaborate schemes to make money and gain power. There are three seasons out right now and somewhere in the first season, the leader of the gang began to promise that they would go legit. He said that they would become a legal operation after this “one last job.”

Obviously they haven’t become boring, legal businessmen; the series would be over! They keep doing “one last job.” However, we all get stuck waiting for or doing “one more thing” in various aspects of our lives.

When I started working in the yard, I would head out the door with the intention of working for a certain period of time. However, I almost always stayed out longer to do “one more thing.” I was going to finish this strip or get that one patch of weeds, but then I continued to do one more strip or one more patch. I named this phenomenon Peaky Blinders Syndrome in honor of the gang that constantly is doing “one more job.”

We can become victims of Peaky Blinders Syndrome in situations when we need to set boundaries. We might think, “Well, next time that coworker puts me down, I will say something.” We don’t really want a confrontation so we put up with it one more time.

We can suffer Peaky Blinders Syndrome with our friends. We all have had a friend that takes advantage of the relationship. He or she gets us to pay or do things that we really aren’t interested in doing. Sometimes this friend talks all about themselves and doesn’t listen to us. Instead of speaking up or ending the friendship, we tell ourselves that we will deal with it next time.

The worst case scenario of Peaky Blinders Syndrome is with addictions. One more of anything beyond what we decide to consume or buy can be a problem. If we talk ourselves into one more drink or one more pair of shoes when those things aren’t in our best interests, we are stuck in a very destructive version of Peaky Blinders Syndrome.

On the grandest scale we tell ourselves that we will be happy enough or rich enough when this “one thing” happens. When it does happen, we still aren’t happy enough or rich enough, and we continue to wait for the one next thing.

We fall into Peaky Blinders Syndrome for a couple of reasons. First, we are doing something that we like, something that brings us pleasure. That isn’t all bad! It’s only a problem when we are ignoring other things we want to do or when it becomes an obsession. Sometimes I stayed out in the yard because weeding was more enjoyable than the tedious tasks that waited for me in the house.

We can also fall into Peaky Blinders Syndrome because we are avoiding a confrontation or something we don’t want to do. We tell ourselves that we will put up with the unhelpful situation or person one more time. It can be hard to stand up for yourself if you aren’t skilled or experienced at doing so.

So, ack! What’s a person to do to avoid Peaky Blinders Syndrome? First, set limits. Really draw a line in the sand and mean it. A limit can be a budget or note in your calendar. When I worked in the yard, I set an alarm on my phone.  It’s important that it’s a firm limit that you really mean!

Second, create some accountability by telling people what your limit is. You might tell a friend “I want to be out of this job in one year” or “Here is what I am going to say the next time Fred makes an inappropriate comment.” It helps to know that someone is going to ask if you are on track and not existing with Peaky Blinders Syndrome. I would tell my husband when I planned to come in the house from weeding, and if I was later than 30 minutes past my deadline, he usually would come and check on me.

Outside accountability is helpful; however, it’s important not to shift the responsibility to someone else. They are your support, not your police. It’s not their job to stand over you and make sure you do what you have said you want to do. Ultimately, the responsibility is yours.

Finally, if you find that the behavior feels compulsive or you can’t ever stand up for yourself, it’s time to get professional help. Talk to a therapist, coach, or both. There are professionals who can help you create the life that you want, a life free of Peaky Blinders Syndrome.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

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