These are the practical kinds of situations that should trigger you to quit going at it alone
You weren’t meant to succeed in this life independently. In fact, it’s not possible. Everything we do in this life involves other people.
I’ve finally started asking for help on a regular basis in the last year or so, and it has completely changed my life. My cortisol levels are down. I manage my time better. And my tasks get done to the level of quality I want.
I wrote this to help others, like me, who often wait too long to reach out to others. Until quite recently, I used to be that way myself.
I think it is helpful to have a breakdown of the kinds of situations that this applies to—moments where people who find it hard to ask for help (like me) can begin to look at it another way. But the truth of the matter is, the decision all boils down to one very simple thing:
We should ask for help if it would be helpful.
It’s such a simple idea, but I don’t think many of us see it that way.
The issue is many of us are stubborn. We perceive asking for help to be a sign of weakness or resignation. We think that we should only ask if there is absolutely no other option. We do the best we can on our own and then eventually resign to ask for assistance. Why?
The first humans on earth had to ask one another for help. There was no choice. There was no shame. They had different skills, abilities, crops, resources, and medicines. They collaborated for survival. Now, suddenly we associate asking for assistance to mean we are incapable?
It simply means it would be helpful to collaborate with someone else.
The truth is, most of the time we are capable, but it would be impractical for x, y, or z to try to do the task ourselves. And other times, we’re not capable.
That’s okay too.
So here goes: when you find yourself in the following situations, consider that it might be a good time to ask for help.
Often, I think I shouldn’t ask for help because it’s possible for me to do it myself. Truthfully, I live my life believing I can do anything if I have the time to learn it. I think that, in general, this is a great mindset. It keeps me independent.
But, you have to balance your opportunity costs.
I recently had a tree cut down in my yard. I could have learned how to cut down the tree myself — I’ve helped my dad do it before, but that would have taken me a long time to feel comfortable with. Additionally, the tree I wanted to cut was very close to my neighbor’s house. And it was large. I decided the time it would take me to gain enough expertise to be comfortable with that particular tree was not worth it. Instead, I asked for help. I hired a tree company that was licensed and insured to remove my tree.
For other tasks, I’ve had time to become comfortable with the skills required, and they didn’t require ultimate expertise to be done to the level of quality I was looking for. For example, I made my garden box this week by hand and plan on staining it this coming week. I did the research and could do it to a level I was satisfied with. Maybe it doesn’t look as nice as if a carpenter would have done it, but I am fully happy with the final product.
Ultimately, if you want a job to get the same results as one completed by an expert, and you don’t have the time to become that expert yourself, it may be a good idea to ask for help instead of sacrificing quality (or in the case of my tree, my neighbor’s home).
I am in the process of renovating my home, and as a part of that process, I’m getting new windows. To install them, four inches of stucco and four inches of drywall will be cut out so that the windows can be nailed directly to the studs of my house. My first thought was that I would paint the parameter of the windows myself when the job was done.
I’ve done small painting projects before, and I didn’t think it would really be all that difficult.
But I did want to measure the opportunity cost first. If someone could paint all of my windows for a few hundred bucks and save me the time and energy of painting around all 14 windows and doors in my home, I would take it.
So, I scheduled quotes from three window companies (It’s always important to get multiple bids).
What I found is that this job would expensive. So, I would do it myself, right?
In the process of getting those quotes, I also found out I don’t have the skills necessary to do the job correctly. Further, if I did it wrong, and the parameters of my windows didn’t completely fade into the color of the rest of the wall, I would be left with huge consequences. I really didn’t want to have to end up painting every inch of my house.
I could have tried to become an expert, but I was willing to ask for help. Sometimes, choosing to ask for help sooner means that you’re saving yourself from having to ask for help after things go wrong.
I work as a color guard coach (it’s basically a combination of dance and spinning flags, wooden rifles, and sabres). I have a lot of experience writing choreography and some experience designing shows.
But sometimes I ask for help.
I reach a point where I feel like I have exhausted all of my creative juices for the season, and that’s when I ask a friend to spin with me or to bounce ideas off of them.
Even if you are the expert, sometimes it’s helpful to ask for help.
Sometimes you don’t even have time to become comfortable with the job. When time is of the essence, sometimes asking for help just makes more sense.
For instance, I had a sprinkler head leaking and I tried briefly to research how to fix it myself. After understanding the scope of the work it would require to become comfortable (something I believe is an essential step in this decision-making process), I decided to hire a company to fix it. I realized through that research that it wasn’t just the sprinkler head that was an issue, but the entire valve in the main control box.
The water was spilling out into the street and down toward my neighbor’s yard. My homeowner’s association (HOA) wasn’t happy about it, and I’m sure my neighbor wasn’t either. It was time to ask for help. The consequences if I waited to make this decision would only become more detrimental.
Sometimes, it’s OK to ask for help on a task that you are fully capable and confident in doing yourself.
I asked my boyfriend to help me with some yard work last week. I was swamped with assignments in my Ph.D. program and was feeling overwhelmed. I needed to at least mow my front yard to appease the HOA, and I couldn’t do all of the tasks I wanted to that week. Something had to give.
Or, I had to ask for help.
He mowed my lawn and helped me trim my bushes. When I was done with my quiz due that day, I helped finish up the pruning.
Rely on your network and ensure that they can rely on you too. We all have moments where we have too much on our plate, are drained of mental or physical energy, and need to ask for assistance.
Sometimes, you have the time, energy, expertise, and mental space to complete a task, but it would still be advantageous to ask for help.
Take a simple example: Sure, you could hang up a picture by yourself. But it would be much easier for someone else to stand next to the ladder to hand you things and give you feedback on whether the picture is even.
My boyfriend helped me build the garden box I mentioned earlier. I was fully capable of doing it myself. But why would I when I had a willing hand next to me? It’s much easier to nail a piece of wood when someone is holding the other end.
You know what they say: work smarter, not harder.