Life Lessons

Saying 'No'

This is a really touchy subject, but I really feel like I need to address it after a long conversation with a friend the other day. Have you ever found that you have too much on your plate? Do you get so flustered trying to please everyone that you end up just making everyone mad instead? I've been there, and I'd like to share a couple tips with you.

First off is a very, VERY important truth. So important that I think I'll bold it. Here we go: You are not responsible for anyone's happiness but your own. Now don't get me wrong...I'm not advocating some sort of Hedonistic frenzy where you only think about yourself and end up hurting others in the process. But I really do believe that it's true that we can't learn to be happy around others until we're happy by ourselves.

Other people put so many demands on us...asking for favors and such. And every decision we make, we tend to think things like, "Will it make this person mad?" or "Maybe I should clear it with so-and-so". I think in my own life I would spend more energy and time worrying about how others would react to my decisions than I would on the decisions themselves. So the first thing you need to do to help manage that feeling of overwhelm is to get rid of the idea that you have to please everyone. Honestly, you'll be lucky if you can please most of the people some of the time. People are different. That's what makes us human. And invariably others are at some point going to disagree with some choice we've made. You can't let that paralyze you.

The second part of this lesson is regarding how you treat yourself. This is especially geared toward those driven, over-achievers out there who never seem to feel like they get enough done. One day I was talking through some of my interpersonal problems with my dear friend Nina and she stopped me and said, "Let me see your planner". I was a little shocked, but I sheepishly handed over to her the small black book I carry around religiously. She instantly noted that my daily "to-do" list was so filled with items that I would add things in the margin and create a second column. "How can you possibly get 25 things done in one day?", she asked me. "You must always feel like you're failing because you never check off a whole day's list". She was right. I had constant stress about it and even though I barely slept and ate, I felt like I was always behind the ball. She ordered me, "From now on you may only put in 5 tasks per day". I was shocked. "But what if I have more than that I need to do?" "Then reschedule something for another day...not everything needs to be done immediately".

I have to tell you, it was hard. But I knew I needed the help with my anxiety level so I gave it a shot. Suddenly I realized how much I spin my wheels. Once I only had 5 things on my list, I'd no longer stare at my planner for 1/2 hour trying to figure out what to do first. My priorities started to line up and I even found out that some things that I moved to a later date actually took care of themselves in the meantime. And the best feeling of all was those days where I got all 5 tasks done and could actually get a headstart on tomorrow's list. Can you imagine going to bed with the feeling that you had not only done everything you needed to do today, but also started working ahead? I suddenly felt very powerful and my life started to reflect it. I became calmer and more focused, and I began enjoying my day and feeling really good about myself.

So that's just my little experience. I'm a huge proponent of keeping a planner. Just don't let the planner keep you.