Clear schedule, cleared path.
If an article title was ever going to hook me, it was this one in Elle magazine: “Soledad O’Brien Thinks You Should Say ‘No’ More.”
Until recently, I had a really hard time saying ‘no.” O’Brien talks about the zero-sum game that is working full-time while raising two young kids. I’m not a mom, but her advice resonated.
“You have to think about building your career, but there’s a whole lot of stuff you can cut out,” O’Brien said. “Anybody who’s asking a favor of you? Say no. Anything you’re being asked to do essentially for free that isn’t growing your career? Say no. Anything where you don’t absolutely love the person asking? Say no!”
Saying no is hard. Frankly, it takes practice. In my case, I’d been trying to be better about it for the past two years. However, it took a literal smack in the head to get that muscle-flexing. That couch hitting me in the head made me lay low, forcing me to evaluate what I truly wanted to say ‘yes’ to during the little screen time my doctor allowed. I’m not a professional at the art of saying ‘no,’ and I still have to put in a lot of the work that comes with that shift, but I am no longer the person who feels like a full-to-bursting calendar is a measure of success.
For the longest time, I crammed my calendar with all kinds of things. At first, it was because I was new to Austin and felt I had to have a grind to be successful. There was also the unspoken rule that if you were a good, ambitious professional, then you were busy all the time.
Over the years, my calendar became even more jam-packed with work-related meetings and events, board commitments, and networking opportunities. Then, when my dad died, my full calendar was a crutch. I was glad to be busy if only to keep my grief at bay. I was afraid that if I did take time to grieve, I’d find myself in a hole too deep to climb out of.
Do you want to know what I had created for myself? A hamster wheel. I ultimately found myself in a place where I felt like I couldn’t say no, couldn’t jump off that wheel, even if I was saying “yes” out of obligation, even when it was at the expense of my personal and family life. I realized that by saying “yes” to everything and everyone, I would up having no room left to say yes to the people and things that truly fulfill me.
I’m so glad to finally be developing that “no” muscle. Last week, I went to the grocery store at night for the first time in a long while. I had not bought groceries for myself in ages – I hadn’t had time! – and I thought to myself, “Huh. Yeah, people normally do this on weeknights.” It felt so good. There are definitely more grocery store visits in my future.
#MovementMakerTribe, I know there are more than a few of you out there who also have a hard time saying ‘no,’ and I’m giving you the homework I wish someone would have given me. I want you to try this for just a week, and if it feels good (and I know it will!) do it the next week and the week after that.
- Say ‘no’ to at least one thing this week that doesn’t fulfill you.
- Say ‘yes’ to at least one thing that does – even if it’s something you think you shouldn’t do because it’s TLC for you and not your career. For some of my friends, that’s indulging in a manicure, a good book, or a full day of relaxing at home. It’s so worth it.
- If you’re on the receiving end of someone telling you ‘no,’ handle it with understanding and grace. If, in order to do that, you need some time, then take it. Handling that situation with care and understanding makes it much more likely to get a “yes” from that person when they are ready to step up.
As you know, my mantra, my North Star, for 2020 is #neversettle. This year, and from now on, I will not be settling for ‘yes’ or being busy just to be busy. I will not settle for anything less than the people and things that fulfill me. I hope you’ll join me, #MovementMakerTribe.
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