Why do we dread it so much? Such a petite little word and yet, afraid we’ll let down a friend or displease our boss, we let the Yes’s run wild until our week goes to hell in a handbasket.
These chronic YES’s are taxing our health – both mentally and physically. They’re burning our boundaries, stealing our sanity and depleting that time for our priority experiences. What’s that called again? Oh ya – our quality time!
Well-meaning as you are, it’s time to stop this “yes excess” and rebuild some long lost boundaries. To reclaim some self-care, your core-values – to say NO. Want to try it? Let’s go!
Step One: List your priorities
The first assignment in my Healthy Life Mindset coaching program – the very first – is to list your life values – your top priorities. For me, it’s my health – both mental and physical, my loved ones, and my coaching practice. All activities and events aligned with these get my first and best focus; they come first on my schedule. All time left is for friends, community, and volunteer-stuff I sometimes enjoy. Add the basic needs like exercise, sleep and meals, and almost all else gets the NO – as in, “No thank you” or “I’m afraid there’s no more time on my schedule.” Because there isn’t.
Now you go: Grab a scratch pad and list your top priorities – the people and things that mean the most to you. I bet they pop into your head quicker than you can say…. YES!
Step Two: Declare your boundaries
Once you’re straight on your values, it’s time to voice them clearly – and frequently! It’s step two in my process and your entry to healthier boundary-setting. Prepare then declare your boundaries.
Start by writing a “values statement” – just two-three sentences that define your life focus and top priorities. Then practice saying it out loud – to yourself in the mirror and with others – until it starts to come naturally, without effort.
Here’s my own values statement…
“In my life-balance coaching practice I help successful, determined people navigate major transitions in their life, and come out better on the other side. I practice a similar balance in my own life – making myself, Joel, and my coaching work my top priorities. This is where I spend most of my time.”
My statement is short and sweet. I mention only my core priorities – myself, my family, my work – and make it clear this is where I spend my time – I declare my boundaries.
Now you go: write a statement that outlines your core values, your life priorities. Write it just as you would say it out loud. Adjust until it feels right, then practice saying it in a mirror, and with loved ones or friends.
Step Three: Yes to your values; no to the extras
Once you’ve named your top values and can voice them to others, my third step is the Time-blocking tool – also called day-theming or task-batching.
Simply put, you check your schedule – every task and appointment and mundane to-do – every day – and see what does and does not align with your top values. Those that do are your YES’s – those commitments tied to personal health, loved ones, work, and maybe community activities like church or volunteering. You’re saying yes to your values.
This new practice takes time; your daily habits and “reflex yes’s” won’t change overnight. Be patient! As you learn to better match your precious time with your core values, you’ll feel the clouds begin to lift and you’ll truly begin to breathe easier. Living within healthier boundaries that align with our values is empowering and fulfilling!
And this, my friends, sets you up for my fourth and final step – the toughest of them all. That frightening two-letter word. Here it comes…the big NO!
Step Four: Saying NO (with a smile)
As I said at the start, we really dread the word no. We are creatures of habit and we’re wired to care.
But when we write down our values and we voice them out loud, we start to feel the relief, the joy that comes with declaring our boundaries; with protecting our priorities. A sense of peace comes through living in balance. We’re spending quality time with the people and projects that matter. To us!
And as we live more aligned with our values, we see more clearly how essential they are – to our health, to our happiness, to our general life balance. And suddenly declining what’s irrelevant just gets easier. It gets easier to simply say NO. Period. End of sentence. No apologies or future promises required. Like a successful gymnast, perfect your art of no and land it. Let the sentence stick!