The Power of No

Nah to the ah to the, no, no, no

Songwriters: Eric Frederic / Meghan Trainor / Jacob Kasher
  Now whilst this song is about boy / girl stuff, I love that line and it’s totally relevant to my life right now.

I am virtually incapable of saying NO.

Have I always been like this? Hell to the yes. Yes Oui Ja Si Hai Shi. You get the picture.

Why am I like this? Well, as much as I had to admit it, I think there are 2 primary reasons. I don’t want to miss out, and I don’t want to let anyone down.  This backfires constantly.

Things I say YES to without batting an eyelid include:  Events, additional work, volunteering at school, helping friends, alcohol, food, sleeping in, movies I don’t want to see, clothes I really don’t need…….and the list goes on.

There was a week in February this year, where I calculated I did an additional 43 hours of things that weren’t my primary focus ie Business Health Family Study. WTF! #PeoplePleaser

This constant filling of life with other stuff can be totally debilitating and usually ends with a drama of some kind. Being late, forgetting something, double booking, letting people down, getting sick, being constantly tired…..blah blah blah.

Shonda Rhimes was told by her sister ‘you never say yes to anything’ which led her to Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person .  Loved the book, and it’s messaging was perfect for me to hear.  I have now looked in the mirror and screamed ‘you never say no to anything’.  Obviously that’s an exaggeration,  I do say no sometimes, but it’s pretty bloody rare.  It’s the learning to say yes to the right things.

I say yes to things that involve other people and say no to things that should be my key focus.  Like getting my butt to the gym, or finishing this blog post.  Why is that?  I’m sure the feedback and the dopamine hit I get when other people are involved are key reasons.

I’m on a mission to say no more often and yes with thought.

This week alone, I double booked myself for what would have been a fab weekend away with some girlfriends.  I only realised when an alarm went off on my phone reminding me to buy something for something else I had said yes to.  So now I feel like I’m missing out, a little resentful and that I’ve let down the organiser of the weekend.  Good thing I realised over a week out.  This wouldn’t of happened if I’d checked my diary before saying yes!

I remember being told by my mother once that I had to say yes to something, as to say no would upset the other person.  I was about 17, and the habit stuck.  The thing with habits is, you can change them.  Takes a wee while, and consistent effort, but it is doable.

It’s hilarious to think of some of the excuses I’ve come up with instead of simply saying No over the years.  So much more effort to explain your way out of something than saying No.  Same result, only less bandwidth.

For now, if I say no to something, please don’t be offended.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I’m exercising my No Muscle.  I’ll probably say No to things I want to say Yes to, just to get into the habit. Oops.

7 Tips To Saying No

  1. Be really clear on what the key focus areas of your life are right now.  We only have so many hours a day and can cope with only so much mental load.  I suggest no more than 3 key focus areas.  Mine till the end of July are Weight, Study, Business.  Elodie is always top of the list for me, so no need to have her in that focus group.  In fact I said on Facebook this morning that if it’s not in the diary now, it will probably be a no.  These focus areas should be aligned with your current short and medium term goals.
  2. Boundaries are the best. A little different to focus areas, boundaries are more defined. Some examples may be: you hate noisy bars because of your hearing – so they are off limits, you always take your mother to Bunnings (gosh I miss my mum) on Saturdays – so Saturday brunch invites are a no go zone, you budget so much on eating out a month – so after that it’s a no. Your boundaries are your boundaries.  Not to be compared with others and not to be judged.  Know yours and hold on to them
  3.  Keep it simple and gracious.  You can say no without having to explain your way out of a black hole.  The more you elaborate the more likely you are to talk yourself out of the no or piss off the other person.  Repeat after me ‘thank you for asking me, unfortunately I won’t be able to contact those books for the school.  I hope it all goes well for you on the day and please keep me in the loop as I will help when I’m able. Not that hard!!!
  4. Remember it’s not the person you are rejecting, it’s the event / situation / task etc.  This is not personal.  Honestly if you are saying no because you can’t stand the person, that’s a whole other conversation.  If they take it as a personal rejection, that’s work they need to do.  If they ask, absolutely explain that it’s not about them, and maybe if needed go a bit deeper into why you are saying no – but only if 100% necessary.
  5. Let go of the guilt.    There is no need to feel guilty when sticking to your boundaries, your focus areas and existing commitments. After all it’s your life!  The more you exercise this muscle, the better it will feel.  I’m still in the feel like shit phase of saying no, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel with each no feeling a little easier.
  6. When you’re struggling with a no, ask for more time before getting back to them.  This is a great opportunity to look at the reasons behind a Yes or a No.  This reflection can be immensely useful. Are you worried they’ll be angry, are you stressed you’re overcommitted with time, are you simply bored and want a distraction? There may be a multitude of reasons.  Investigate and get back to them with a clear Yes or No (maybe is not going to help you).
  7. Start saying No to the small stuff.  For example, yesterday I said No to a chocolate biscuit that was offered to me – looked bloody yummy too.  But, I didn’t need it (yes I wanted it).  I then said No to getting something finished for today, that I knew was going to be a struggle and I was then able to say No to drinks with friends as I knew it would make the things I wanted to get done last night so much harder to do.  Did the world fall down? No.  The biscuit was eaten by someone else, the work will be done for tomorrow and I caught up with my friends on chat.  I swear if I had eaten the biscuit the rest would have been Yes too.  Maybe this ties in a little with decision fatigue so that first No has a rolling effect on the rest of our decisions for the day. I might have a Google and look at that further.

What can you say No to today?


Life Is Short, Wear Your Party Pants

Yes, this is a post about death, but it’s more importantly a post about living. Not the, throw all caution to the wind and live fast & hard (well you can if you want), it’s a post about living as you, the best that you can, for as long as you can. I’ve always known, seen and understood death. I think I was 15 the first time someone I knew committed suicide. From then on it became a fast world of funerals for those early battlers of HIV, more suicides and then the family deaths started. So here at 44, I have lost a brother, my father, my mother, my grandmother, friends, distant family and colleagues. My other grandparents and 2 siblings were gone before I was even born. Death surrounds us. It’s part of life. We can’t outrun it. We can’t ignore it. Yet each time someone I know dies, it hits me a little differently. This year has been no exception. I want to talk about 2 exceptional women that have been taken way to soon. 2 women who were mothers, friends, partners, siblings, daughters, ballsy feisty talented and so much more. Individuals who touched the lives of so many people in their short time in this existence. I’m not going to get all existential and question what happens when we move on, as we all have such different beliefs. For what it’s worth though, I do believe life can’t possibly end when this body does. I’m going to talk about the impact their passing has had on me. Let’s start with a F Load. Yep, I’ve cried, I’ve been angry and I’ve cowered in disbelief. How can Annie who fought so hard for so long have lost her fight, and how on earth can Amy be a ball of energy one minute and gone the next? Then that internal argument starts, is it better to know it’s coming, or to just go? I don’t know. Nobody does, and we can’t ask those that it’s happened to. Was I a best friend to either of them? No, however in their lives and in their passing they have both impacted me greatly. Both of these women lived their lives with integrity and love. Both seemed to be on paths that were 100% theirs to be on. Both had a grace and an elegance that comes with being you. Yet they were very different women. Yet they were taken too soon. They have left young children and partners behind. My heart breaks when I think about their loss, as I have no understanding of what that is like. Eulogising them is not my place. Being grateful for the time their lives intertwined with mine is. My friend @RupertNoffs shared this recently. Beautiful. “I am a child of the stars. My body, like the clothes I wear will one day belong to the dust of the centuries. My spirit is immortal and belongs to the universe. Our sons and daughters are the princes and princesses of an eternal kingdom. They inherit the riches and resources of this planet for a span, until they continue their journey through time and space.” ~ Rev Ted Noffs Life is short, wear your party pants. I love that line. It’s the title of a book by Loretta LaRoache. I think it’s what my next show at Claire’s will be based on. Life is short so why the F do we waste so much of that precious time on such insignificant things? When you come to this realisation, there’s no point feeling guilty or angry about time you’ve wasted. That’s as pointless as it is to not forgive someone – it’s only causing you trauma. The only thing worth doing when you have that moment when the true sanctity of life hits you like a lightning bolt, is to change. Shit. Change. For some, that’s probably scarier than death (or public speaking). I fear change. I’ll admit it. I like comfort zones. I like the known. Yet all I can think about at the moment is change. It’s a knot tightening around my chest. Invading my every thought. The change doesn’t have to be big, but it has to be meaningful. I’ve done so much journaling in the last few week. So much contemplation. Weighed up so many pros and cons. What have I come up with? Well, it’s to keep going. To make my goals my priorities. To commit to saying NO. To evaluate each situation with a life & death questioning. I don’t mean that in a ridiculously crazy melodramatic way (although I’ll admit to creating drama in the past, to get through my life). I mean it in a significance way. Is what I am thinking, doing, being etc something that I would be happy with if it was my last day. If I even hesitate on this, I really need to wonder why the F, I”m doing it. We could all be taken at any moment. So make every single one of those moments count. Getting embroiled in a drama on Facebook, or binging MAFS is probably not top priority, sitting having dinner with loved ones or writing that book you always dreamed of – probably is! At both of the celebrations of life for Annie and Amy, I have made a commitment to them to not waste another precious breath. I will honour them and the others that have passed way to soon, but living my life. Not in fear or hesitation but with courage and on purpose – always, not just in those moments of total confidence and security. Don’t wait. Put on those metaphorical ‘party pants’ and live each day 100% you.