Next week we officially roll into the holiday season. I want to remind you (and frankly myself) that the holidays are a great time to reinspect healthy boundaries with family, work, community, church, your checking account or credit card and your to-do list.
I saw a post on social media this week that said, “This is your weekly reminder that you can handle whatever this week throws at you.” I know that whoever authored this just meant to encourage all the internet peoples to have a great attitude about being able to handle the week ahead of you. In a lot of ways, I resonate with it. So many of the things that we “have” to do are truly things that we “get” to do and should approach with a mindset of gratitude. I totally get it. However, it’s this time of year where I like to believe that I have to be everything to everyone. So in response I need to actually say to myself, “This is your weekly reminder that you don’t have to handle everything that this week/season throws at you.”
I know it might seem like semantics. It’s not. So much gets thrown at us, most figuratively but sometimes literally. I live with two boys. At any given point in the day, a ball could get thrown at me. Guess what, you don’t have to try to catch everything that gets thrown at you. It’s ok to just to let it bounce off you. It doesn’t even hurt (ok, sometimes it does, baseballs hurt).
I know how tempting it is to say yes around the holiday. We want to help, especially when an ask is aligned with our values or our interests. But why are we so tempted to say yes when it’s not alignment with our values, interests or even within our responsibilities? It’s ok for you to just say “no.” Repeat after me, “No.” It’s the only two letter word that feels like a four-letter word. It’s a complete sentence all on its own. Once you say it, nothing needs to follow. Most people that ask something of you don’t need anything beyond the ‘no.’ But, if you’re like me, you might feel the need to let people down easy (still working on releasing the people-pleasing over here). “Sorry, I can’t do that.” “Sorry, that’s not mine to handle.” Sorry, I love helping, but I can’t do that.” “Sorry, I can’t commit to that right now.” You know I’d love to say yes, but the timing isn’t right.”
If you’re like me, saying no might be hard, especially during the holidays. Maybe you’re an agreeable person. Maybe you have the StrengthsFinder strength of Harmony (that actually isn’t one of my strengths but it’s probably pretty high). You are driven (to an extent) to cooperate with people, to avoid conflict, because you desire people to come together in harmony. Maybe you don’t like to risk social capital by saying no to someone for fear it might rock the boat. In turn, you end up saying yes more often than you might want. When this happens over a period of time, people know exactly who to go to pass off work, to gain consensus on an idea or to drive their agenda. By the way, this doesn’t mean you’re a pushover. This means you value harmony. It’s a beautiful strength to have within teams, families, and communities.
One of my favorite authors is a woman named Jen Hatmaker. Jen has a phrase that she’s shared over the years that’s so beautifully straight to the point. “If it isn’t a Hell Yes! It’s a No!” It might be a really nice thing to do. It might really help someone out. It might even be something you’d eventually like to do. But if it’s not a Hell Yes right now, it’s a no! How do you know it’s a Hell Yes? It totally aligns with my values and/or goals and it’s an appropriate request given my current other commitments. It’s not enough anymore to just align with my values. It also has to be the right timing given the other items on my plate. “Sorry, it’s not a forever no, it’s just a no right now. Can we discuss it again in a month, next quarter, or in a year?”
But what if no one asked you to do the thing you’re doing. What if over time, it just became assumed that you would do it at work, in a relationship or within a community. Over time, it was just assumed that it was your job to do it. It was just assumed that you would go along with the plan. It was just assumed that you would pay the bill. It was just assumed that you would do the work. It was just assumed you would host the gathering. It was just assumed that you would take the notes (can we just all agree that the one woman in the room should never be asked to be the note-taker!!! Guys, please tell me you know this? Unless you’re actually shooting a scene of Mad Men reenacting the a 1950’s office environment, don’t ask the one woman in the room to take notes). It was just assumed that you schedule and take the kids to the dentist. Some of these assumptive yes’s happen innocently over time. No one is pulling a fast one or trying to manipulate you. However, this is your weekly reminder that you don’t have to do everything that is thrown at you. At any point it time, you still have the self-agency to say no or ask for help to determine another plan or arrangement. You don’t need to keep doing something just because you’ve been doing it. Even though it’s hard and your brain wants you to keep doing things because you’ve always done them, you can adopt new habits and roles. You can change. You can say no. And when it makes sense, you can say yes!
Agency is a beautiful thing. You have agency over your thoughts and your actions. You also have agency over the consequences of your actions. There are times when my plate is way too full. That is a consequence of saying yes when I should have said no. Here’s the hardest thing about saying yes when I should have said no, it often hurts the people that I love the most or hurts the things that I value most. If I’m overwhelmed, my husband and family feel it the most. If I’m overscheduled, my family and my team feel it the most. If I’ve mindlessly accepted un-inspected meetings, my leading indicators within my work are most negatively impacted. If I’ve said yes to too many requests, my goals and dreams are delayed. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
This is your weekly reminder that you don’t have to handle everything that this week throws at you. You have the self-agency to say no. Repeat after me, “No.”
I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!