In my work with women in my community who are looking to redefine in some way, teaching them the importance and the power of the word “no” seems to be a universal lesson – regardless of what it is they are trying to accomplish.
Some are looking to change or develop a new habit. Others are looking to write a book, start a business, or find a rewarding volunteer opportunity. Others want to spend all of the time they can with their grandchildren.
For all of them, the word “no” has to be learned and practiced in order for them to live their dream lives on the right side of 50.
For myself and so many of the women in my community, the most verbalized barrier that stands in our way is a perceived lack of time in each day. Many of us are still working. We are often caring for our own aging parents and helping with grandchildren. We continue to juggle and try to balance our various roles throughout our entire lives.
And yet, many of us still have a very hard time saying “no” when someone asks us to do something.
In March, my husband and I were getting ready to close on a beach home in North Carolina that we knew was going to be a major project. The week before we closed, my granddaughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, which came as a complete shock to the family. I was not only worrying about her, but also her parents as they learned how to manage their “new normal.”
We closed on our beach house and shortly afterwards learned that it was going to be a much bigger and more expensive project than we originally planned. And, as all of this was going on, we learned that our grandson also had Type 1 Diabetes.
To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. Family has always been my priority and I wanted to be available for my kids and grandchildren. While all of this was happening, I was struggling with how to tell my boss and best friend that it was time for me to start actively fading out of my career and leave the company.
One evening during this time, there was a coaching session happening in my blogging mastermind, and I decided to hop on and listen to it for a bit. It was being run by one of our coaches who is all things time management and organization.
Within 30 seconds of me coming on to the call, she said, “You’ve got to remember your priorities and what is important. When you are saying ‘yes’ to something that is not a priority, you are saying ‘no’ to something that is.”
I was blown away. It was like I was meant to get on that call right in that moment.
I put my own life situation into that sentence. “When I say ‘yes’ to an additional responsibility at the career that I’m ready to leave, I’m saying ‘no’ to my family as well as my community of women.”
The next day, I met with my boss and am now actively fading out, decreasing hours and responsibilities. I have been able to be present for my community and for my family.
Most importantly, I have been present for myself. Because, if I am not healthy and practicing self-care, I am no good to anyone else.
It’s a real pain to do but writing down exactly how you spend your time for a solid week will provide you with helpful information.
Pay close attention to how much time you spend each day reacting to the needs of others. Whose needs are you reacting to? Are these people’s needs taking time away from the things that are a priority for you? Including some time to do YOUR thing? Whatever that thing might be?
Many of us have spent our whole lives reacting to the needs of others. I plan to continue to do that for my family, but I have now trained myself to set aside focus time each day to work on content and my programs for my community. Time where I put my phone away and do not check texts or emails.
Although our values tend to stay the same throughout our lives, our priorities do change as we move through different phases. Take some time to sit quietly and reflect on what your values are on this side of 50. How would you like to spend each day and week moving forward? What is important to you in this phase of life and what is less important?
Creating this statement can be a first step for you in terms of figuring out what your “thing” might be moving forward and setting goals for yourself.
This, in turn, will make it easier for you to know, in the moment, what and who needs to get a “no.”
“What you don’t do, determines what you can do.”—Tim Ferriss
Do you have difficulty saying “no”? How much of your day is spent reacting to the needs of others rather than focusing on the things you’d prefer to focus on? What steps might you take to resolve this?