Saying "No"

Hand in hand with yesterday's post on the fear of missing out, is that most difficult word to tell people... "No".  There are so many reasons that we dislike telling people "no".  Sometimes we feel like we'll let them down, we feel bad because they're our mother, we like to accommodate others, we genuinely like to be helpful, we love to be a part of things... The reasons are endless, really.

The problem comes when we refuse to say "no" at our own detrimental expense.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't make personal sacrifices to serve others, because I wholeheartedly believe in service and helping others.  However, the problem arises when you can't take care of yourself because you've committed too much to others.

I have a friend who is the busiest person I know.  She says yes to everything.  She doesn't only participate in events, but she heads them up and organizes them.  She's on every committee, every board, and takes on every big project.  To have dinner with her, I have to schedule it a month in advance because every night is booked.  But every few weeks she'll come to me and say, "I can't wait until next month.  Next month, things should calm down a lot and I should have some time."

She won't have time next month.  I know she won't because this is how she runs her life.  Now, that's ok.  There's nothing wrong with that, but she refuses to acknowledge her choices in the matter.  She does not see how she creates the busy-ness of her life.

If you like to run your life like that, more power to you!  If it fuels you and gives your purpose, do it!

But if you feel like you're drowning in the undercurrent, it's time for a change.  

First, separate the things that you truly want to fill your time with from the things that you "should" do.  This might be difficult at first, but be patient with yourself.  This may be as big as feeling like you should be involved in the PTA, even though it's draining, or as small as feeling like you should have lunch with your sister, even though you'd rather read while you eat.  Take some real time to filter these out.

After you have your lists of "wants" and shoulds", evaluate them.  How would you feel if you removed each "should" from your life?  Does that make you feel lighter?  Does it make you feel guilty?  Is there a happy medium?  Can you have lunch with your sister every other week and read at the café on the off weeks?

Despite how hard it may be, cross some things off of our "should" list.  They don't need to be permanently crossed off, you can come back to them, but release yourself from the expectations of fulfilling them for awhile.  Then go through your "should" list again and ask yourself which items you can ease up on.  Is there anything you're involved in that you don't need to take the lead role in?  Again, this doesn't need to be permanent.

Then take a look at you "want" list.  Which of these things can you add more of into your life?  Where can you fit them in?  Are there some new opportunities that are available because of some of the "shoulds" you crossed off?

Now that your current obligations are in order, be more mindful as you take on new commitments.  Think of the opportunity costs and what you'll be sacrificing as you say "yes".

With this new perspective, you might just find that saying "no" is easier than saying "yes"!