Saying NO: The secret to having it all
Many of us simply want a life with balance and control. It’s not much to ask. We work hard, so we want to play hard, and it’s OK to want to have it all – the meaningful career and balanced family life. Good wellbeing, happy kids, nice holidays, time to exercise and detox. It feels like that should all be possible, but as I write this, it also feels like there is a lot of pressure to achieve that. Can you really have it all?
I’m a firm believer in choice. Your ‘all’ and my ‘all’ may look very different. But one thing I am certain about is that to have it all you have to be able to say no and make choices.
We each only have 24 hours in a day, when you say yes to one thing you say no to something else.
To have it all, whatever your ‘all’ is, requires you to live life consciously. This means being aware of what you are saying yes and no to, and saying yes to the things that you want and no to the things that you don’t.
You also need to know that there may be consequences, so being conscious about your choices involves weighing up the consequences of that choice. For example, you want a family holiday with the kids so you can relax and detox. Also, you want to secure a promotion at work and you have a big project going live at the same time as your holiday. You want it all, so what are your choices here? Do you take your laptop on holiday and keep up whilst you’re away? Maybe you go totally dark on holiday and delegate any work to someone in your absence? Could you move your holiday to a more convenient time?
Most importantly what are the consequences of these choices? And are you being honest and realistic about the consequences.
All too often I see my clients telling themselves stories about what will happen when they make a certain choice. In the example above, it would be easy to tell yourself that your team won’t cope without you if you don’t take your work with you on holiday, or, that it’ll be easier for you to keep up with work whilst you’re away to save yourself the steep catch up when you’re back. You might tell yourself that there is never a good time to take a holiday or that it’ll look bad if you don’t keep up with work whilst you’re away.
The stories we tell ourselves are the real reason we struggle to say no. Saying no is easy, you do it all the time. Every time you work late or work on a weekend when you’d ‘rather’ be playing sport or spending time with the family you are saying no. You’re just saying no to something that’s easier to say no to. Maybe you’re saying no to yourself, or the kids, or your partner, or your health. You are saying no to the thing that is less important than your story.
So how do you get to have it all?
1: Be really clear on your priorities.
You are time bound so you do have to make choices about how you spend this time. Having it all is by design. It’s about choosing what you want to spend your time on and realistically, honestly and objectively considering the consequences of these decisions. It may all be important to you, but what is the MOST important.
2. Know your values
Your values guide your behaviour and your decision making and they are largely unconscious. What are you driven by? My values include freedom, learning and making a difference. They guide me in my choices everyday and led me to this career as a coach. I know them and use them to help me plan for the future. When you know your values it is possible to be clear and have conviction in the choices you make. It makes it easier to say no, because you know WHY you are saying no to it.
If you struggle to hold boundaries maybe you have a habit of comparing yourself to others. You might be spending too much time looking at what others are achieving and not enough tie concentrating on your own wants, needs, skills and talents. If this sounds like you, you might find this blog useful too.
3. Don’t give your power away.
Don’t kid yourself that you have to do anything. You don’t have to work late or check your emails on a weekend. Believe it or not, you don’t have to go into work early or take that conference call. These are all choices. You are choosing to because the consequences of not doing have been fully considered. The minute you choose to ‘HAVE” to do something you are no longer in control of your life.
4. Work on your storytelling
Notice what stories you are telling yourself and find a good coach or mentor who can help you to consider how your stories are helpful or unhelpful. How real are they? Are they up to date or are you carrying something around with you that is no longer relevant or true? Many of us carry beliefs that we are not good enough and this often results in ‘striving’ behaviour; striving for the next promotion/goal/result/action, often at the detriment to other things. If you believed that you were good enough (which of course you are) how would that change your behaviour? I suspect it would make it easier to say no when you needed or wanted to.
5. Get good at saying no
You don’t have to be rude or ungrateful when you say no. It’s possible do it respectfully and sincerely. You can also manage some of the consequences by having open, often crucial conversations with people.
Take the example we used earlier. You decide you want to take the holiday and turn off from work completely. The story you’ve been telling yourself is that it will look bad if you do this. To enable you to achieve this holiday you might need to have a conversation with your team to align the support you’ll need, you might also choose to have a conversation with your manager and share your concerns and reluctance about ‘going dark’. Maybe you share your reasons why you’ll not be checking in when on holiday. The point is that it can take courage to hold boundaries. You may need to develop skills that you haven’t had to use before. No-one is saying it’s easy to say no or to change the habit of a lifetime. The question you need to ask yourself is “Is it worth it”
FREE DOWNLOAD: The Complete Guide to Saying “NO”
To support you on your journey to Saying ‘no’ and creating the life you deserve I’ve developed ‘Complete guide to saying no”. It’s a one stop shop of everything you need to take into account when saying no, I’ve included some questions to help you get clear on your values and your priorities and also questions to help you identify what stories you are telling yourself. It’s a fully packed quick tip resource to get you reclaiming your balance and control.
The Complete Guide to Saying "NO"
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