I used to be a total yes girl. Float a good idea from 20 yards away, and I’d take it up as a personal mission. Uncover a need anywhere, for any reason, at any time, and I could help. Make that meal. Buy that school supply. Help with that fundraiser. Host that thing. Attend that party. But here’s where all those yeses got me: exhausted, stretched thin, and disappointing no one on the periphery but everyone in the inner circle. (My kids are still slightly bitter about that season, and will often huff and puff when I tell them about something new I’m working on.)
I can’t quite put my finger on exactly when things shifted, but my best guess is that I’ve been unraveling busy for right at a year now. After Winnie was born, we all recognized a change was needed. Some adjustments were obvious—going from full-time to part-time work, pulling the kids out of a zillion weekday commitments, saying no to leadership positions. And some modifications were sneakier, hidden under the guise of good. It is good to join that group, help that family, buy that gift, come alongside that friend. Worthy, even. But all that good can pile up high, sending you back where you began: saying too many yeses and not enough not right nows.
A few weeks ago, a friend asked if I would host a group of women once a month in my home for a morning coffee event. Molly a year ago would have confirmed immediately. What a wonderful thing to do! How life giving for women who just need a break at the end of the week. But something made me hesitate and I practiced what I’ve been learning to do these many months: I said no. Guess what? The world didn’t crumble and the friend didn’t get upset. In fact, she affirmed my answer! (Good friends will do this, by the way.)
When we say no or not right now to another commitment in our schedules, we leave space in our lives for rest, groundedness, and connection. When we say no to the purchase we’ve been drooling over, we add a bit more margin in our bank accounts and can begin investing in the things that are more important and long-lasting. When we say no to our children, they learn the usefulness of delayed gratification, and when we say no in front of our children, we teach them the value of self-protection.
I don’t know where you are with your no. Isn’t it so awkward to say at first? Don’t you feel the need to let the world in on the reason behind your limitations?
Try it again.
Practice it with fewer disclaimers this time.
Soon those commitments that seem immovable will, in fact, shift leaving you more room for a new yes down the road.