a greyscale image of two small children huddles over a device with the word 'merciless' at the top edge of the image

Permission to be merciless

Do you need permission to be merciless with your own time and attention? According to a YouGov poll in 2022, 49% of respondents self-identified as ‘people pleasers.‘ If you’re one of them, you might find it difficult to say ‘no’ to the things that are contributing to a sense of overwhelm with the busyness of work and life. In this post, Kate shares how a recent conversation with a client led her to the flip side of the Cards for Clear Thinking and to consider if she could give herself permission to be merciless.

a greyscale image of two small children huddles over a device with the word 'merciless' at the top edge of the image
The flipside of the kind card is ‘merciless’

In the Cards for Clear Thinking deck, ‘merciless’ sits on the opposite side of our ‘kind’ card. It’s distinctly monochrome for a purpose, but a recent coaching conversation reignited my contemplation of its role as a potential antagonist.

During the session, my client expressed frustration about the onslaught of back-to-back meetings, the relentless pressure of too-much-to-do in too little time. She felt ensnared and engulfed by the corporate machinery. Reflecting on her available options, she concluded that adopting a ruthless approach was her best bet. It felt radical yet strangely fitting.

Considering that ‘ruthless’ doesn’t explicitly feature in the card deck, I pondered ‘merciless’ as its close cousin and what insights the flip side of ‘kind’ might reveal.

The dictionary definition of merciless’ is ‘showing no kindness or sympathy,’ which seems harsh at first thought.

Recognising my own inclination to be attuned to others and eager to please, I acknowledge my tendency to prioritise others’ objectives over my own. But at what expense? Could a touch of well-placed ‘mercilessness’ be beneficial for me?

To delve deeper, I reached for my cards and began shuffling. Here are a handful of my reflections, observations and a series of questions that will help you consider your own position on this and perhaps inspire you to some clearer thinking and new ways of decision making about what really deserves your time and attention.

Kindness: It’s not a matter of choosing one over the other; there’s space for kindness alongside a dose of well placed mercilessness.

Intentionality: What might I create if I enhance my focus and intentionality by embracing mercilessness?

Boldness: How might a bold and unwavering approach to pursuing the right course of action with the available resources serve me well in certain situations?

Trust: How does the compulsion to be present in every meeting/discussion/situation affect the trust cultivated within a team? Would a merciless approach to meeting requests be appropriate?

Empowerment: What other advantages might a merciless approach uncover for others?

What about you? What could be revolutionary and fitting for you when it comes giving yourself permission to be merciless?

The demands of work and life are many, varied and often relentless. We can attempt the impossible and try to tackle everything perfectly or we can choose to relate to things a little more gracefully and dedicate our precious time and attention to what matters most. Permission granted!

Kate Miles-Roberts is a Facilitator and Coach working with clients locally and globally, in person and online. She advocates for clear thinking and empowers individuals to break free from feeling trapped and overwhelmed by their work roles. Her clients relate to their work differently, and choose fresh approaches to achieving their goals.

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