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The I Can’t Let Them Down Hustle


  • You get a phone call saying the latest report didn’t run correctly so you stay late to fix it.
  • Your son hints that he wants cupcakes to take to school for his birthday–you stay up past 3am to make sure they are perfectly prepared.
  • Your husband asks you to pick up his favorite suit on your way home, you drive 15 minutes out of your way (OK really 45 with traffic) to get it.
  • Your co-worker asks you to help out (AGAIN) with this month’s birthday luncheon. Even though it is her responsibility you say yes.
  • Your mother-in-law asks you to stop in for lunch on Saturday. Between soccer and errands you make a hurried stop at her house.
  • On Friday morning, your sister asks you to babysit on Saturday–her babysitter cancelled at the last minute. You shift your movie night with your husband to accommodate.

Do you know what all of these scenarios have in common?  The theme is “I CAN’T LET THEM DOWN.”

The driving force behind each of these actions is the terror that you might:

  • not be perceived as “all that” to someone.
  • disappoint someone
  • be seen as a slacker
  • make someone sad
  • put someone out
  • not live up to expectations

These terrors are why we take on the Can’t Let Them Down Hustle. We put ourselves last, go out of our way, and drive ourselves to the point of exhaustion in order to make sure others perceive us as kind, giving and wonderful.

These patterns have become ingrained in us–from a young age. And unless we actively engage these patterns they will continue to become ingrained.

The number one reason people come into my office and cry out “I am exhausted” is because they are engaging in the Can’t Let Them Down Hustle. They are spending too much of their time operating on automatic pilot and hustling for others.

Yes, we all have obligations. We all have things we need to get done AND we need to be clear on our motives. Is it because we need to get something done or is it because we are unnecessarily hustling.

After many years of being in Hustle-Recovery I still (more frequently then I care to admit) catch myself Hustling and have to pause and ask myself:

“Is this hustle necessary?” (asking this question, pulls you out of the trance of hustle–for many of us this thought never enters our minds)

“Why are you hustling for?” (are you hustling for yourself, for your kids, and why? is there a real priority here?)

“Is it worth it?” (really, honestly is it worth it to drive yourself ragged, could this be done another day, another way?)

“What’s the worse that can happen if I don’t hustle?” (what’s your it because it really needs to get done or is it because you can’t let them down? This question stops the hustle dead in it’s track–too often we are operating on automatic pilot and aren’t really clear on why we are hustling and that nothing terrible will happen if we stop hustling.)

These questions help stop the cycle of hustle. Gradually over time I have started de-programming my Can’t Let Them Down Hustle and you can too!!

I would love to hear from you in the comments:  Can you Relate?!?  How do you engage in the Can’t Let Them Down Hustle? How do you unhook from it?

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