Create Space for Happiness: Just Say No

I just finished the most overwhelming month I’ve encountered in a LONG time.
I had a major client project coming to a close (with tons of final meetings), an enormous amount of work for a training program I’m enrolled in myself, a peak of client work, and several out of town trips for work… PLUS a son’s college graduation and another son’s wedding (two weekends of this), all of it out of town and requiring travel….PLUS it’s spring time, and we had to get our garden planted in a specific window and maintain the yard.
Whew!  As much as I walk my talk, all the meditation, breathing, and gratitude practices in the world were not enough to keep me from falling into frustration, overwhelm, guilt (from missing a deadline), and even, on a particularly bad night, from despair.
Hey, don’t lie to me – you’ve been there!  Imagine: There I was, lying on the bottom of the pit of despair and hopelessness, wishing for calm and happiness and satisfaction…when I realized what the problem was.
I was forgetting Happiness Principle #1: Be Positively Self-ish! I’d forgotten that sometimes the shortest path to sanity is to use one of the shortest words in the dictionary: No.
And so I spent the next day working up the courage to start saying No.  I reviewed my calendar, computed how much time I’d need for all my commitments, and calculated that I had more work than hours available.  (Confession – at this point, I had trouble breathing.  Honestly!)
Gulp!  So the first order of business was determining what I would say NO to.  I decided that I would NOT say No to sleep.  (Bad idea, to skip sleep).
Next, I sorted out two projects and renegotiated the due dates.  I started to feel optimistic, once again.  Then the phone rang.
“Hi, Jim.  We really need you.  Right now.  Can you come in and facilitate this leadership meeting for us, right away, for which we’ll pay you money?”  (that’s not really how it went, but that’s what I heard).  Gulp, again.  And I looked back down into the pit of despair and hopelessness…and in that dark place I found a tiny bit of backbone and courage, and I said, “I’d love to!  AND I am totally swamped right now, and cannot commit to any more work until June.  Can that still work for you?”  (My mind raced through many dark scenarios… will they leave me?  Will they say, “no way?”)
Hallelujah!  “not a problem, Jim.  I understand.”  And we looked ahead to the relatively open space on my June calendar.
This conversation repeated a few times, and the wonderful thing is, now my June is pretty full.  Great stuff!  If I’d not found the courage to Just Say No, I would have been completely underwater, and probably trying to edit strategy documents at my son’s wedding last weekend!
Boundaries protect us
When you Just Say No to things you can’t handle right now, you are taking very good care of yourself.  Saying No creates a strong boundary, so that other people know how far they can go and what they can ask of you.  If you have weak boundaries, you can end up in situations you do not like, trying to fulfill commitments you can’t handle… and you’ll be miserable.
And remember, when you take care of YOU, you end up with more capacity to take care of others, and in the end, there’s more happiness to go around for everyone.
Because I Just Said No, I was able to be fully present to all my clients, meet most of my commitments on time, and still spend all my weekends with family.
So when life threatens to run you over, take care of you.  Just Say No.
Living Happiness Principle # 1, Be Positively Self-ish is critical if you are to open up space to live life on YOUR terms versus everyone else’s.  Why not post a copy of the original 13 Principles on your workstation wall or on your refrigerator?  You can download a 1-page summary here: Choose Happiness.

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