Creative LeadershipCreativity

Who Enables You?

Who does the heavy lifting so you don’t have to?  I’m used to the sweet but determined voice I regularly hear echoing throughout our house:  “Honey, can you come in here a minute?”  That’s the universal signal that my magnificent wife Kathleen has encountered a computer problem.  She’s learned that she doesn’t have to actually figure it out herself, because I’ll come and fix it for her.  When it comes to learning new things on her Mac – I enable her.  As long as Phil is around, she doesn’t have to take the time to figure it out.

We all have those areas in our lives.  For me it’s cooking.  I love eating, but hate cooking.  If I was a bachelor, I’d order out 7 days a week.  But Kathleen enables me because he’s a great cook and willing to fix dinner.  You could say she’s just being nice (and she is) but she’s not helping me learn to cook myself.

We all have areas where we enable people, and most of the time it’s not a problem.  But occasionally, we train (or let) other people do the things we need to do for ourselves:
— We enable co-workers to take advantage of us when we refuse to say No.
— We enable our children to fail when we keep covering for their mistakes.
— We enable friends to damage their lives when we let them drink past their limit.
— We enable clients or vendors to cheat when we allow them to break agreements without consequences.

The list is endless.  But turn it around. Who enables you?  The tragedy of enabling behavior is that because others enable us, it keeps us from reaching our potential. Life is tough. Living creatively is hard. Success is difficult. But to break through to the next level, you have to make it happen.  You have to do the heavy lifting.

Does someone in your life enable you?  Does that behavior keep you from discovering what you were born to do? When are you going to actually stop it?

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  1. I’m totally the enabler for my wife as the serial IT guy.

    I think we all need to be stretched in what we do. Sometimes I would say however that we need to lean into those are operating in their strengths rather than relying on our own weaknesses.

  2. Might be helpful to talk about the difference between enabling and empowering.  People who empower me help me to think differently, see opportunities rather than obstacles, fuel creativity and generate  new ideas.  That’s beneficial.  Enabling is different — it looks like helping, but it’s actually detrimental to growth, since it allows people to continue old patterns and habits.

  3. Is “enable” the best word for this post? I understand the point. But “enable” still has a positive connotation for me, like “enabler” means “someone who drives me to do it myself,” not “someone who does it for me.”

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