Anyone who knows me very well might be laughing about the fact that I am writing a blog about saying “No“. In my last blog entry, “The Paralysis of Being Overwhelmed”, I discussed the reasons we can get overwhelmed, how to break out of that state, and how to prevent it in the future. But honestly, the reality is that I may talk a good game, but I get in over my head on a far too regular basis. The main reason I get overwhelmed is that I am terrible at saying “No”. My family knows this all too well, which is the reason a magnet with the words “Stop me before I volunteer again” is on my refrigerator. Eric bought it for me years ago hoping it would make a difference. I see it every day. I quote it. But too often I don’t heed it.
There have been whole books written about this topic. I haven’t necessarily read them because my life is too full of things I have said “Yes” to that I probably shouldn’t have. Hence the problem. 🙂 However, I did find a couple of well-written articles that phrased things better than I could, so I’d like to share a few passages from them.
In the article “Say No So You Can Say Yes”from the website Zen Habits (https://zenhabits.net/say-yes/), Leo Babauta writes:
“Saying yes is not really saying yes. Saying Yes to everything means you really have time for nothing. You can’t possibly say Yes to everything, because where will you fit it all? Want to go to every meeting, every event, every coffee? Want to do every project that comes along? Your days will be crazy, and you’ll have no rest, and what’s more, you’ll likely not meet all your obligations…Saying Yes to everything means you’re not really saying Yes — it means you’re not setting priorities. You’re not making a serious commitment. You’re not being conscious about your life.”
Wow! That last part really speaks to me. If I say “Yes” to everything, I’m not setting priorities. I’m not being conscious about my life. Leo Babauta suggests that we adopt an idea by writer Derek Sivers. I am posting his short article in its entirety because I like it so much. I like the simplicity of his thinking. It is an excellent example of being conscious about your life. I apologize in advance for the cursing, but it’s only one word, and in my opinion, it’s worth looking over to get the point. Plus, “It’s my blog, and I’ll cuss if I want to” (cue the 1965 Lesley Gore song, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to”). By the way, if you want to watch a short video clip of this same content with super cute animation, click on this link: https://sivers.org/hellyeah.
“Use this rule if you’re often over-committed or too scattered.
If you’re not saying ‘HELL YEAH!’about something, say ‘no’.
When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ — then say ‘no.’
When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say ‘HELL YEAH!’
Every event you get invited to. Every request to start a new project. If you’re not saying ‘HELL YEAH!’ about it, say ‘no.’
We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.”
Now back to Leo Babauta, who brings it all together and gives us a practical way out of the mess we are in when we are overcommitted:
“So start by saying No to the obligations you’ve built up but don’t really want to do. Make a list of all your commitments (really do it, it only takes 5 minutes) and mark the 4-5 that are most important. Say No to the rest — actually call or email people and let them know you can’t do it. Create room in your life. Some breathing space. Some time for what’s most important — your important work, the things that you love, the people you love. Then start saying Hell Yes to those things. Then it’s like magic.”
Alright my fellow Type-A over-committed friends, are you ready to make your list? Will you really commit to saying “no” to a few things? I’ll make you a deal. I will if you will.
If this post speaks to you, I’d love to hear your thoughts, your plans, or your questions. We are all on this crazy ride together, so we need to help each other out.