The key? There’s only one? Well, maybe not.
But in my humble opinion, there is one thing that is “key”, non-negotiable.
And that’s the word “no”.
That might sound contradictory. We all know that to make a big contribution, to truly live life to the fullest, we need to say “yes”. Say “yes” to our dreams. Say “yes” to our purpose. Say “yes” to doing what we really want to do.
However, if you say “yes” to all those things, you’re also going to have to say “NO” to the things that stop you from actually fulfilling those yeses.
And that’s where things often get tough, especially for women. We are so used to doing things for others, to meeting everyone else’s needs, that we end up saying “no” to ourselves, even though we don’t mean to.
Let me give you an example from my own recent experience.
We’ve had a big project going on in our home – and no, it wasn’t a fun remodeling one. It was a “fix a problem” project that we had no idea was going to have to be done this summer.
But there it was, this big, fat, and kind of ugly project that Had. To. Get. Done.
I couldn’t possibly have said “no” to that, could I? It had to get done. It wasn’t fair to ask my husband to do all the work himself, and, of course, it would take a lot longer if I didn’t help.
I did more than help, though. I kind of took the lead. I found the contractors (mostly). I scheduled the contractors. I helped my husband with the parts of the work that we could do ourselves. I worked my butt off.
And the project got done. Not as quickly as I would have liked, but probably faster than it would have gotten done if I hadn’t taken the lead. My husband was busy. He has a very demanding job. He has to travel a lot for his work. He wasn’t home to do it. I was here. I was “available”. It just made sense for me to do it. Right?
But what did it cost me to do it?
Hmmm… I didn’t spend as much time on my new novel as I would have liked. I didn’t get my regular workouts in and often didn’t find time to do any workouts at all. I didn’t spend as much time building my coaching practice as I would have liked. I didn’t connect with as many people as I wanted to. Didn’t get some of my work projects done in a timely manner.
I didn’t . . . have time to do the things that I had said “yes” to, the things that are aligned with my true purpose, the things that will help me make the contribution that I’m here to make.
Could I have said “no” to the project? No. I couldn’t totally say “no” because our home, the health of our home, is my responsibility too. The joys of homeownership, as they say.
But could I have managed my time better? Could I have said “no” to some aspects of the project? Could I have worked out a way to make room for more “yeses” around the things that are truly important to me?
Yup. I could have.
But I felt responsible.
I wanted the job to get done quickly.
I knew my husband was really busy, with tight deadlines and multiple projects.
I was physically available.
The project just felt more URGENT than my work.
And that’s where Steven Covey’s admonition about how we get stuck doing what’s URGENT rather than what’s IMPORTANT comes in.
We can’t always say “no”. Sometimes, things are “urgent”.
But are they as urgent as we think they are?
My work is really important to me. Because I want to serve. I want to help other women live lives of meaning, contribute at their highest potential.
And to do that, I have to contribute at my highest potential. Which means being very careful with what I’m saying “yes” to. Very careful.
We can’t always say “no”, but we can draw boundaries around what our “yeses” are.
We can make sure that when we say “yes”, we are not inadvertently saying “no” to something that’s more important, even if it’s less urgent.
I don’t regret helping out with our messy home project. Nor do I blame my husband for making his job a priority. He was doing the best he could, and he did do a lot of the work … like all weekend every weekend.
I just recognize that it was a lesson for me.
A lesson that I need to pay more attention to how and when I say “yes”, and become really present to the costs of those “yeses”.
Because I want to live up to my full potential, and that means saying “no” more often than I am saying it right now.
What are you saying “yes” to that isn’t serving you? Isn’t forwarding your game? Isn’t supporting YOUR goals and dreams and desires? Maybe it’s time to say “no” . . . Or at least make sure the “yes” doesn’t take too much time away from the “Yes” that helps you serve your purpose in the world.