It happens simply, almost innocently, with a phone call. A text. An email.
We should get together this weekend, when are you free?
They really need help with the four-year-old class . . .
You should absolutely take advantage of this opportunity!
It’s nothing earth shattering – surely I should be able to do this one thing.
Yet my stomach makes that familiar flop, and anxiety settles in because I know in taking on this one thing, someone’s going to be disappointed.
In the real world, it’s not just one thing; it’s one thing, after another thing, after another thing.
I am a people-pleaser. I hate telling people no. Not the people who are closest to me. Not the people I work with. Not even the nameless, faceless people I meet online. But by saying yes so many times over, allowing those things to start piling up high, it’s dangerously easy for me to lose touch with what really matters.
I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit paralyzed over that text or email, trying to calculate how I can minimize the damage and still say yes, until something very important dawned on me.
Every time I say YES, I am also saying NO.
The yes made out of guilt or obligation, always births a no to something else.
Very often, a something else that really matters.
No to my best friends.
No to my boys.
No to my husband.
No to myself.
“I’ve said NO to some big things and some small things . . . But saying NO let’s me say YES to the most important things.” – Shauna Niequist, More Love Less Hustle
I’m so tired of saying yes when I should be saying no, and no when I should be saying yes. It’s a habit that is slow to break, but no-by-no I am learning to filter my responses, and reduce that all too familiar stress by reflecting on these three questions.
What is REALLY important to me?
The most valuable space I have ever given myself was the time to reflect on what matters most.
Who are the most important people in my life?
What routines would I like to see established every day, every week, every year?
What are my goals personally, relationally, professionally?
Writing out a list of the things that matter most seems like such a simple task, but too often we trade good things for the best things, just because we haven’t identified what they are.
Creating a list of what is most important to me, and referring to it often, keeps the everyday chaos of life in check and helps me filter out the obviously unnecessary yes quickly and painlessly.
What needs to happen so I can care about the important things FIRST?
“If we don’t take the time to put our long-term goals first, there will never be enough time or energy for our dreams.” – Ruth Soukup, Living Well Spending Less; 12 Secrets of the Good Life
Knowing what is most important, and acting like it are two very different things. I’ve learned it’s necessary for me to schedule what’s important on the calendar before everyday life takes over, or the things that matter most just won’t happen.
Family adventure days.
The important things have to take priority FIRST before I can say yes to anything else. Understanding how I can make them important on a day-to-day basis is absolutely invaluable in the debate over those last-minute/must-help/right-now requests.
By saying NO, what am I really saying YES to?
I believe this is the question that enables me to say no with confidence.
When I have to say no to something, it helps to remember what I am saying YES to. Just pausing long enough to consider what important thing I am prioritizing with my no, helps make the decision that much stronger, and that old yes-habit of mine, that much easier to break.
There is power in saying NO.
We just need to wield it well.
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