“Saying no can be the ultimate self-care.”
There’s this annoying little bug going around. Actually, it’s been around for years in one form or another. It can creep up and knock us for a loop if we’re not careful, so awareness is key to prevention.
Anecdotal research has shown that this bug springs from a chronic inability to say no.
The symptoms can be brutal: extreme shrinkage of free time, irritability, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, and frequently missed self-imposed deadlines.
And all traces of fun can mysteriously disappear.
Left untreated, it can result in a permanent distraction from what’s most important to us: our values, our loved ones, and our dreams.
I’m not sure what the official medical term is for this bug and its symptoms, but I think of it as “overcommitted-itis.”
Perhaps you’ve seen this bug in action. You may have been overcome by it yourself. (I know I have, and just thinking about it stresses me out all over again!)
The good news is there is a cure, and you don’t even need overpriced health insurance to make it so.
Quite simply, the cure for overcommitted-itis flows from making room for the best kind of yes.
The kind of yes that is in alignment with who you are and what you value.
Stephen Covey once wrote:
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things.
And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘YES’ burning inside.”
We all have a bigger yes burning inside, but it can become obscured by what can sometimes feel like 24/7 demands on our time.
To live our “burning yes” we have to learn to say no a whole lot more. Not always the easiest thing to do, especially if we’re out of practice.
But we always have a choice; we always have options. We can always say no to what is just not us or doesn’t fit with the vision we have for our lives in any decision-making moment.
So, how can we know the best time for yes and the best time for no? It starts with having a clear vision for our lives, including an understanding of our true values.
The key to our happiness is to first know what it looks like for us and then to take action and make decisions accordingly. If you’re not really sure what happiness looks like for you, invest some time in sorting that out, exploring possibilities, and understanding what makes you tick.
Your life is incredibly valuable – create a vision worthy of you.
Once you have that clarity of vision, you can use it as your guiding light each time you’re faced with a decision.
Your vision will evolve as you do – as you gather new life experiences and learning, and when your priorities shift at different stages in your life – so it’s best to revisit it regularly.
We all want our decisions to fit who we are now, not who we were ten years ago.
Then it’s a matter of practice, practice, practice.
Not everyone will appreciate the beauty of a no in quite the same way we do, especially if they’re used to always hearing a yes.
But Covey’s guidance to say no “pleasantly, smilingly, and unapologetically” can help us reset expectations – our own and those of others – while keeping our valued relationships positive.
It’s a process.
Sometimes it can be challenging to decide if an option fits in with your vision or not. It can appear to be a really good option, and you may be pleased to be presented with it.
But if your gut feeling is a big no, pay attention and be ruthless with yourself in considering the possibilities.
Does it truly lend itself to making your vision a reality, or will it draw you away from what you most value?
This John C. Maxwell quote sums it up: “You have to say no to a lot of good things in order to be able to say yes to a lot of great things.”
If something is not quite in alignment with our vision, we need to get comfortable with saying no, with deepest gratitude for the opportunity.
So there’s the cure: clarity of vision and the will to make room for the best kind of yes, by saying no as often as necessary.
Overcommitted-itis can creep back in, however, so keep an eye out for returning symptoms. If you find yourself all sweaty-palmed and sleep-deprived, with no free time to call your own, start practicing that no.
Have a great week!