I just finished an amazing week of unplugging from the world and all things that need attention, or things I’ve committed to finish.
It was heaven.
It also gave me time to reflect and think about all I’ve committed to do.
Translation: I had ample time to realize all I overcommitted to do, which resulted in pure panic.
Picture this: My husband and I are in Italy. We are lounging by our hotel pool overlooking the ocean. It is sunny, scenic and pure bliss. He is reading and I am resting with a book, thinking and reflecting.
I suddenly realize all I have committed to accomplish in the next year, and the brevity crushes my chest like an elephant is sitting on top of it, and I jump up from my lounge chair and start searching for a pen and paper to make lists.
Because that’s what I do when I am in pure panic mode, overwhelmed and overcommitted. I make lists.
Can any of you relate?
My husband, who is reading Game of Thrones, startles. He asks me what the heck is wrong, and tells me to come back to earth and out of my stress orbit.
God love him.
So this is what I know I need to do, and what I am doing:
I am saying no.
No. No thank you. No, I really appreciate the offer to speak, but I can’t accommodate you. No, thank you so much for the ticket, but I cannot attend. No, unfortunately I cannot commit to that manuscript. No, I would love to participate in that committee, but I cannot at this time.
No. Two letters, but so heavy.
Here’s the thing: to say one yes, you have to say ten no’s.
You have to make room for the YES that burns deep in your soul, the one you have been waiting for. If you say yes to all the others, you won’t have time or space in your life for the YES you want!
When you find yourself overcommitted, you must learn to say no. I set a ‘no’ time frame. I tell myself for the next one, three, six months, maybe a year, I must say no.
This involves accepting a VERY difficult truth.
In my opinion, I am not successful at saying no until I accepted this truth:
You have to get used to disappointing nice people. Let me repeat: you have to get used to disappointing nice people. Ouch. I know.
The more successful you are in life, the more you will be asked to participate.
Think back to kick ball. If you could run the bases, and score, you were likely picked first the next day, right?
Life is similar. The more dependable you are, the more you deliver what you say you will, the more you are going to be asked to do things, and the more likely you are to find yourself overcommitted.
The problem with over commitment is you lose control of your blank spaces. You know, those white spaces in your week, that are open to refuel and reconnect, or do what your body, mind and soul needs. They disappear with over commitment. And if you are like me, you need those blank spaces to thrive.
So, for the next several months, I am saying no. I am bracing myself for the uncomfortable feeling of it, because I know to say YES to what I really want, I must say no. Here’s my algorithm for YES:
- Will committing to this thing make me ridiculously happy? Does it burn deep within me, and light my passion? If the answer is no, then I say no thank you.
Is committing to this thing vital to my 5-year plan? If the answer is no then I say no thank you.
Will committing to this thing bring me closer to my family and help me create more white space? If the answer is no, then I say no thank you.
I have found it helpful to be very aware of guilt swaying my decision. I do an internal check and do not let other people guilt me into “yes”. I don’t do things because someone tells me “you are the only person who can do this”. I also do not do things because it will feed my ego. The ego is a dangerous thing to feed. I have found myself committing to things I don’t necessarily enjoy because someone has told me what an honor it is. I really try hard to internally check whether guilt or egos are involved before I commit.
Find the white spaces. They may take ‘no’ to find them. True enjoyment exists there.