How often do you say “yes” when your inner voice says no?
And how often do you crave a “yes”, but your outer voice is refusing go there?
Let’s dive into it…
In this busy, type-A-centric world we inhabit, it can be hard to say no.
There are only so many hours in the day and days in the week, so be sure you’re making the best possible use of your time! Spend it in ways that you will look back on with pride and pleasure, not fatigue or regret.
WHEN YOU STRUGGLE TO SAY NO
It can be hard to carve out time for yourself when you feel compelled to say “yes” every time you’re asked to help out, attend an event, volunteer, take part in a race or competition… The requests for our time can seem endless!
First off, you need to have a series of questions to help you filter those demands on your time.
Do I really want/need to do this?
Will doing this take time away from something I need/want to do more?
Will doing this fulfill me?
Will NOT doing this cost me in an important way? Will I lose self-respect or abandon a responsibility to others?
Will doing this cost me in terms of my biological needs (e.g. sleep, food, movement) or my psychological needs (e.g. down time, social network, connectedness to primary family/friends)
As you can see, some of the questions trend to a positive direction which would certainly make me want to say yes! The others ask me to gauge the potential costs of what I’m agreeing to.
Let’s say I’ve been asked to help run a course with a friend that starts soon, so there isn’t a lot of lead time. Let’s see how it filters out…
- I really want to do it! I like the friend and respect her work.
- Let’s say I will need to put 8 hours of prep and 4 presentation hours a week into this project for 4 weeks . That Is going to cut into my time significantly since I already teach for 25 hours a week and spend another 20 hours a week (ish) on client care, running the studio and content creation. None of those things are really optional for a month, so the time will have to come out of my personal life. If I end up not staying on top of my clients and teachers, that will cost me in self-respect and the responsibility I have to them.
- Yes, I will find it really fulfilling!
- NOT doing this will cost me connection with my colleague, possible exposure to new clients and social connections. I will not lose my sense of self or abandon a responsibility (assuming I am thinking this through BEFORE having agreed to run the course).
- Doing this course will cost me down time and time to connect with my family. It will cost me sleep and movement time (because I know that when I’m overscheduled I don’t sleep well and I will work on other people’s movement before I work on my own. Just being honest!).
When I look at all my answers, it really sounds like I want to do it, but will probably end up burned out and not doing my best work in ANY arena! So now’s the hard part: do I find a good way to say no or do I find a way to say yes?
If I’m going to say no, here are some options.
- I would love to work with you, but I can’t make it work in my schedule right now. Is there any way to expand the timeline so we can spread out the prep over a longer period?
- I would love to do this course, but I can’t make it work right now. Please let me know if you’re doing it again. With more lead time I could totally make it work!
- I’m so honoured you asked me, and I would love to be asked again!
- I would love to be involved, but I can’t commit to that much time. Is there a smaller way I could participate?
- Thank you so much for asking, but not this time around.
But here’s where it gets even more interesting. What if I really want to say yes?
Then I’m going to have to say no to OTHER THINGS IN MY LIFE!
We’ll look at my imaginary project in minute, but what are some things we might want to say “yes” to?
- More sleep
- More down time to settle and shed stress
- More fun time out with friends and family
- More intimate time with your partner
- More rewarding, focused time with your kids
- A new undertaking that will stimulate your brain ( a course, a new instrument, learn to tango)
- More movement
- A less take-out, throw-away lifestyle
- More travel
- More success (however you define it) in your work
Those all sound pretty great to me! And they all take time.
In order to say a resounding “yes” to any of those, you will need to say “no” to some other things that already consume hours of your life.
It can be an interesting exercise to track your hours for a week or so, and see where all those hours and minutes go. I personally can make a lot of extra time in my life by stepping away from playing mah jong on the computer (I’m all over the transparency in this post!). Maybe the thing you want to take on means re-organising how you spend your leisure time. Less time on social media= more time spent meditating or playing the piano. That’s pretty simple. Sort of. Depending on how much time you’re looking for!
Let’s go back to my imaginary project. Let’s say I REALLY want to do this and I feel that the pros out weigh the cons. I need to find another 12 hours a week for four weeks. That’s a lot of time!
So if I want to say “yes” to that, I have to say “no” to something else.
Here are some examples
- cut down on mah jong | (saying no to some down time de-stressing) | 3 hours
- cancel a weekly lunch date with a friend | (saying no to social time) | 2 hours
- ask for more help from family in meal prep | (saying no to a task) | 5 hours
- post fewer work videos on social media | (saying no to a self-imposed expectation) | 3 hours
Boom! 13 extra hours without sacrificing my clients, my responsibilities to the studio or the relaxing down time with my family.
Would I want do that all the time? No. I like playing mah jong. It settles my brain. I like making dinner. It nourishes my body, my family and my soul. I like my lunch date and I like connecting to my online community and offering movement education!
But here’s the thing. Sometimes you have to say “no” to get to “yes”.
We can’t do it all! And we burn out when we try. I’m taking this lesson deeply to heart these days, and re-balancing a lot of things to make sure that what I do serves me, my family and my community. I am learning when to say no, and how to make room for the deep, heart felt yes-es in my life.
I’ve used a very simple, work-based example in this blog. I know it gets harder when the thing you want to say “yes” to feels selfish. When it’s something you need for yourself, when the things you have to say “no” to are personal. Or when people don’t hear your “no” clearly.
This is when building and holding boundaries gets more challenging. Absolutely! That’s when answer #5 of the first list becomes your default… Thank you so much for asking, but not this time around.
So we ALL have two tasks to explore: how to SAY “no” clearly, respectfully and lovingly. and how to HEAR “no” clearly, respectfully and lovingly. When someone tells you they can’t do something for you, join you in something, come to your event, help you with your whatever you need, hear that with the same love and respect you would ask them to have for you. Remember… people usually say “no” when they have a deep need for a “yes” to something else!
Here’s to you, your boundaries, your rugged ability to care for yourself and to love those around you!
Owner of Boomerang Pilates and MoveSMART Movement
Alison has been teaching Pilates and movement for almost 20 years. She has an approach to movement and health that includes exercise-specific movement, natural everyday movement, somatic body and brain exploration and a deep conviction that how our brains and bodies get together makes all the difference to how we feel. Combining functional, exploratory details and alignment with fluid, intuitive movement and an emphasis on acceptance and fun leads to sustainable change that helps you feel better for life!