the gentle art of “no” [to unlock joy]
No = Joy. The two sound contradictory, right?
Before you answer, pause… take a deep breath! And now think hard about the last time you truly said no to clear free space in your schedule.
If you’re like me, that may be a distant memory. But guess what? The word “no” is the lock and key to “white space” which is the “fertile ground” for joy and freedom.
This time of year the capacity to say no seems compounded with complications. Partially because our obligations increase but also because there are so many silent pressures nagging at us. If it sounds like I know what I’m talking about I DO because I’m the first one to agree to some things that I later regret.
But here’s my commitment [and subsequent challenge] to you, I am wholeheartedly invested in fine-tuning the gentle art of “no” in order to unlock pure joy this season. And in order to make this a tangible + actionable goal, I’ve laid out a roadmap below that I would absolutely adore some company in following. Are you with me?… GREAT!
step one – pause
While it’s tempting to pacify an ask with an immediate yes, a five second pause is the most powerful antidote to the emotional rollercoaster [and time vacuum] of unraveling a flippant commitment. Those five seconds might just feel like the longest 5 seconds of your life, but they will also serve as the most gratifying 5 seconds you spend all day if they prevent you from committing to something out of angst or fear. Once you’ve paused, consider starting your sentence in this gentle way: I can’t commit right now but very much appreciate the kind offer. In this way you are setting your boundary beautifully [which is admirable] but also honoring the asker by thanking them for thinking of you.
step two – define your priority for the day
The word priority comes from the latin root ONE. Yet how many times have you heard the term “priorities.” I used to write it at the top of my checklist every day only to feel defeated that 30% of the checklist was not accomplished. Instead of putting the unrealistic expectation on yourself to have “priorities,” consider isolating [from your checklist] what is non-negotiable before you put your head on the pillow. Chances are by putting so much intentionality into that one thing before all the rest will not only enable you to say “no” more easily if an obligation conflicts with that priority but it will also clear space in your mind for joy and contentment [instead of defeat and anxiety].
step three- build your list of “I don’ts”
Along the lines of lists… [can you tell I’m a list maker?], it’s time to build a list of what you don’t do. In this day and age we are presented with a myriad of ways to overextend ourselves, making it hard in the moment to un-commit if we don’t have well defined boundaries for what we do. not. do. Consider journaling this weekend with the your page titled…”I do not:” Here’s the start to my list, if you are curious:
I DO NOT:
- check email before 10 am
- turn my phone off airplane while in bed [to check something that will usually just make me anxious before I hop out of bed]
- mindlessly snack between meals
- eat standing up
- drink on monday – wednesday evenings
Now it’s your turn. You’ll be surprised by how easily this list of don’ts will untangle you from the turmoil of feeling scattered depletion. If I live out my “I do not’s,” I feel in the driver’s seat with both my food choices and my interaction online.
step four – practice
I’m making this sound easy. But it’s not! It’s actually quite difficult and will only get easier with practice. Consider it a “muscle” that you must flex at the gym before you can start using it for the heavy lifting of the holidays. My commitment is to practice this as often as possible even if it’s just in more superficial ways. Xfinity asked me yesterday if I’d like faster internet that would make my life so much better. A 5 second pause later, I kindly said no- my life still seems pretty great without it. But then I was asked just this morning if I could commit to helping with a baby shower the same week I’m traveling. A [harder] 5 second pause later and I can proudly tell you I was able to say “no” only to feel a wave of relief wash over me, not because I don’t adore my pregnant friend but because I know she wouldn’t want me resentfully helping with anything that overextended myself. In fact, are you ready for this? She said she respected me even more for defining my boundary so clearly. #nailedit
step five – don’t apologize
In full transparency, I have yet to master the art of not apologizing after giving someone news they don’t want to hear. But it’s part of this roadmap because it plays a pivotal roll in finding both the time and energy that you deserve. And if the process of setting boundaries leaves you in a position of apologetic fear, it’s not going to give you the freedom you crave. Practice setting a boundary and pausing before explaining yourself. You’ll be delightfully surprised by how smoothly this goes especially in relation to saying no to food. If anything, you’ll find others want to set the same boundaries!
step six – fight for joy daily [as though it is a form of tangible “nutrition”]
And here is the best part… joy. It’s something we crave at a soul level but don’t usually have time to actively pursue. But by honing in on your ability to set your boundary, say no and un-commit, you now have time and space for joy. What a refreshing thought. So what brings you joy? Do you have a list? If you’re struggling to even think of one thing you’ve done today or plan to do today that brings you joy [outside of sugar and stuff], now is the time to start building out that list. Joy is as important to the body as vegetables are. Gasp! You could be eating like a rabbit but if you’re devoid of joy you won’t experience the true freedom of DEEP nourishment. Here is my final challenge to you [and myself!]: savor two “doses” of joy daily. Journal your joy. Celebrate your joy. And share your joy.
By practicing the gentle art of saying no, I’m confident you’ll be able to reflect back on this season as a season of JOY.
Oh and should you need a subtle reminder on the daily to fight for joy, I created a little present for you, my joyful soul…
Click HERE to download the desktop background I currently have on my screens to remind myself that joy truly is a reflection of deep wellness. And it begins with the word NO.