Some reasons why I used to hesitate to say no?
- Fear of missing out
- Not wanting to miss opportunities
- Wanting to do everything
What are your reasons for not saying no and taking on more and more things to do?
Whatever be the reason, the point is this way of working leads to fatigue.
What makes it hard to say No?
I know saying no to actions and opportunities was especially hard for me because, I was driven by the assumption that I am a superwoman. Quite flattering. What a boost to the ego. As I felt I was a superwoman I took on more than I could. And as pulled through stuff and got things done, that assumption of being a superwoman was validated time and again, leading me into a vicious cycle to set higher and higher expectations.
There is a clear distinction to make here: Is it the challenges we are attracted to.
Or Is it our High Expectations that makes us feel good about ourselves?
When I understood that difference, it was easier for me to decide which challenges I want to take up and where I need to say no to set boundaries for myself, so I don’t end up doing more to feel good. I learnt that I am not my results and feeling good need not depend on what I achieve or not. But rather shifting the focus to the inner quest for excellence knowing that there is an equally important place for action and rest, set me free.
- What is the cost of holding high expectations?
- How is that impacting the quality of your life?
- How much permission do you give yourself to be mediocre?
I am not a superwoman; you are not a superwomen/man. And that’s not only OK, it’s better.
Future Focused orientation:
As a future focused person, I constantly saw the gap between where I am today and where I could be, and this didn’t help me to relax and be pleased with how things were in the present. I remember one day walking out of a conference several years ago, where I spoke in front of the top 100 leaders of the company and I was already thinking about the next bigger game I wanted to play.
The thing is while we think it’s okay to push ourselves, and go for the next goal, the next challenges, this process leaves us feeling constantly switched-on, wondering how to close the gap. And then when we close the gap, we create a new goal, a new challenge and then there is a new gap and a new one.
Do you see how being too future focused can lead to taking away the joy and laughter that gets created in the present moment?
Being present with “what is” is about tuning in, feeling, and being in the here and now.
Being present with “what is”: does not mean compromising and it is not being lazy.
- How do you balance being present with “what is” and growth that comes with trying to “close the gap”?
- How is that impacting your mental health?
- What if it is ok to not get anywhere for a while?
The cost of having High Expectations and being Future Focused creates fatigue and exhaustion.
Have you ever felt exhausted?
“Exhaustion is a feeling that we have reached the edge. A feeling that you have no more to give.”
This leads to agenda’s and days being filled with lots of action, the sun sets and there is still lot more to do and then its Groundhog Day again. The chase, the to-do lists, the numerous places where decisions can’t be made without you increases. You become the pivotal point in most places and yet it is not your intension for things to be this way.
I remember coaching with a client who after a couple of sessions told me:
“Deepa I know it was my High Expectation that got in the way of accepting those meetings where I really don’t need to be present, but I just couldn’t say no”
Becoming aware is one thing. Taking action is another. There is a gap between awareness and doing. The gap is where great questions generate curiosity to understand the source of our anxieties that keep us away from the very things we want.
Questions help us to understand our deep assumptions. Why is being Future Focused is a great way to live? Why having High Expectations is the best way to work? We have created a polarity bias. Leading us to lean on one end of the spectrum.
For instance, here is how the polarities could look like:
High Expectations and Low expectations
Future focused and Past/Present focused
What do you notice as soon as you see the other end of the polarity? Do you feel an immediate bias of one over the other?
You are not the only one. We all have a tendency to lean on the strengths of one polarity until we find that it is working against us.
As Barry Johnson in his book Polarity Management says, paying attention to polarities tells us how we strike or don’t strike that balance.
Jennifer Garvey Berger in her book: Unlocking leadership mind traps talks about how we hold on to our narratives and we fall into the mind trap of “We believe we are right”. In her book she says:
“We confuse feeling right and being right. We lose curiosity and openness to data”
Here are 2 simple questions from her book that can release us from the mind trap of being right on our bias to lean into one end of the polarity.
- What simple stories am I creating?
- What do I believe, and how could I be wrong?
To make it more specific:
- What simple stories am I creating about being Future focused?
- What do I believe, and how can I be wrong here?
These questions create choice for us. From a place of choice, we can decide what we want to value in a particular situation, giving us more leverage to say No.
I know today that going slow is going fast.
I can see the polarity of slow and fast. I see how going slow brings more spaciousness and creativity in my day. I have lived many Sundays where I worked driven by passion and driven by a need to move on and that got collapsed into leisure.
But there is a way in which we can bring more ease in our life.
What if you said no to one thing?
When was the last time you worked a whole day without meetings, emails and social media?
We are so connected all the time.
Trying to meet expectations.
Not wanting to disappoint others
Trying to get someone
Hoping to not disappoint ourselves
What if you took 1hr today to:
Clear space and set boundaries - who and to what will you say no
Remove at least 30% of items from your agenda
When I have a whole day to create and work without distractions…. I get to be in flow, I get to sense timing and feel connected to the universe.
It allows me to take distance and see the cycle of life I’m in.
Will you give yourself this gift of creative space?
Our physical and mental recourses are precious. The journey we are in is a beautiful one with its own flaws and beauty.
So, give yourself the gift to just be you, nowhere to go, just being here and being present.