One of the challenges many of us face is saying no. Sometimes we have trouble saying no because we want to please people or because we are afraid of the consequences. While I could write reams about the challenges which arise from avoiding unpleasant or unwanted outcomes, I would rather focus on the challenge of saying no when you want to engage in all of your options.
If I had a nickel for every time I struggled with making a choice between doing something I liked or doing something I liked, then I would be rich. There are a lot of topics I find interesting and I love learning new things. When you combine my love for learning with my desire to find solutions, you get a person who frequently is presented with multiple opportunities to take action. I often feel l am at a crossroads and am torn about which path to choose. Can you relate?
Over the years, I have picked up some strategies for navigating the intersection of the crossroad. It seemed appropriate to share these strategies as we travel deeper into spring: a time when there is a lot of vitality and a desire to take action.
As always, I would love to hear how these suggestions land with you as well as hear of new strategies which you have found helpful. Feel free to drop me a line and share.
Wishing you much ease and joy,
Strategies for Navigating the Crossroads
Before making a decision, get clear on your availability.
It is tempting to underestimate your commitments so you can add more to your schedule. I get it. When I want to do something very badly, I am the queen of downplaying how long something is going to take. Every time I underestimate my time, my energy, or my support, I pay for it later. I either feel tired and overwhelmed and/or I feel guilty for half-assing the project. As you probably know, this position feels crappy. I struggle with whether or not I should back out of the commitment. If I quit, then I have to deal with self-recriminations: all the stories I tell myself about quitters. Really, it’s a vicious cycle I would rather avoid.
Write down your schedule and inflate the time you think it will take to complete an activity.
It is human to underestimate the amount of time you think something will take. Very few of us, at least at first, accurately calculate the time or the resources an activity will take. If you have ever had to get a small child out the door in the early morning, then you know what I mean. As a new mom, I had to drastically change my morning routine, and even then, I had mornings when I could not get to work on time.
The other consideration is how much time you would like to have for an activity. I can take a quick shower and get dressed fast AND I would prefer to gradually ease into my day. If you want a sustainable schedule – a schedule which will last over the long-haul, then create one which honors your biorhythms, your preferences, and your resources. After writing down your fixed schedule – the commitments you already have (job, classes, meetings, childcare) as well as the time needed to meet your basic needs (sleep, eating, meal prep, exercise, housework), notice how much time you have for new things.
Have a brainstorming session.
Ideally this time is fun and hopeful. Make a list of all the things you would like to explore, to learn, or to do. The sky is the limit. No editing in a brainstorming session. Take your time and give yourself permission to dream of the possibilities. This process may occur over several brainstorming sessions.
When you feel complete, begin to group your options into categories. You decide the categories. The categories could be arranged by time, e.g., things I want to do over the next year or things I want to accomplish in five years. The categories also could be arranged by topic or by life sphere. For example, places I want to travel, or skills I want to acquire, or a position I want to obtain, or a community project I want to complete. Organize your ideas and dreams in way that makes sense to you. Notice how you feel as you organize. Ask yourself if this idea or dream is something you want or if it is another person’s expectation for you.
Write a vision statement.
After reviewing and organizing all your ideas from the brainstorming session, get still and sit with the information. You may need to be with the information over multiple sits. The goal of being with the information is to notice what resonates with you most deeply and why. Ferreting out what are your desires and goals opposed to what are other people’s expectations is key. Once you have that clarity, create a vision statement for yourself. Vision statements are a touchstone which you can return to time and time again. They also remind you of what you really want. When faced with a decision, ask yourself: Will this opportunity advance or support my vision? If the answer is no, then don’t do it.
Narrow your choices to three priorities.
This is the hard part, and if you don’t want to splatter, it is absolutely necessary. (Humans, by and large, cannot complete more than three priorities at any given time.) Your priorities ideally reflect your vision statement. Next, reverse engineer your goals. Reverse engineering is when you set a deadline for a goal and plot out the steps needed to meet the deadline. For example: if you want to complete a marathon, you design a training schedule which allows you to build your stamina incrementally opposed to jumping off the couch one day and attempting to run 26 miles.
Several years ago my cousin wanted to complete an Iron Man competition. (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) He also had a full time job and a family. For one year, all my cousin did was go to work, train for the competition, and spend time with his family. That’s it. Those were his three priorities. He did not have time for anything else. When I asked him how he was able to complete his goal, he said: “I have a very supportive family. I could not have trained for the competition and worked full time without their help and understanding.”
Reverse engineering allows you to set goals by the season, by the month, by the week and by the day. Since you previously created a schedule with realistic time estimates, you know how much room you have every week to devote to your priorities. You have your “yeses,” and consequently, also have your no’s – the boundaries you need to set to accomplish your goals.
Getting clear on your priorities also makes you aware of the resources you need to reach your goals. My cousin, for example, needed the support of his family to make his dream come true. He realized if his partner and children were not on board with his training schedule, then he would have to delay his dream or to find other resources to make it happen.
One other outcome to this process is discovering you want to make different commitments. Perhaps you learn that you are in a job which no longer fulfills you or no longer supports your lifestyle. Maybe you discover you have to let go of something in order to make room for something else. Or possibly you decide to use your resources differently in order to reach your goals.
Getting clear on your vision and committing to your priorities is a game changer and can make the difference in how you feel and how you live.
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where women could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Five years later, Kim is still in the flow of supporting and building a healthy, vibrant community and now guides retreats, teaches yoga, and provides one-on-one services for women who want an immersion experience into the life-affirming, Shakti energy.
Kim’s training as a therapist and yoga teacher allows her to safely and compassionately guide women on a heart-centered journey to Self, where women re-connect with their beautiful, authentic spirit.