08 Jul

It’s OK to Say No

I’ve written about this word before.

It was in the context of parenting, however, and this time I’d like to share the empowering side of “no” in the context of life in general.

It’s funny that I feel inspired to write about “no” when I’ve just begun an improvisational comedy class where the motto is “Yes, and . . . “

So I want to first acknowledge that I definitely subscribe to the philosophy of being open to life, open to possibility, and open to new experiences.  YES!  And. . . It’s still OK to say no.

I see it often in my coaching practice:  high-achieving, hard-working, kind and generous parents and professionals who have a hard time saying no.

Some of them have a hard time saying no to a fun night out even though they are exhausted.

Some have a hard time saying no to their work colleague who pops in to chat at the end of the day, even though they’re dying to get home.

Some have a hard time saying no because they think they can do it all – all of what’s already on their plate AND that new thing, too — but then find that it takes longer than they think, and the unexpected little things all add up.

Some have a hard time saying no because they know they are capable of doing that thing well, and they don’t want to let others down.

Most of us have the best of intentions when we take on more at the request of others (or ourselves). We want to be helpful, supportive, and productive. We want to show up for others and live life fully. We don’t want to let others down.

Showing up for others, being open to new experiences, and being of service are wonderful reasons to say yes.

The problem comes when the “yes” leads to exhaustion, overwhelm, stress, poor self-care, or irritability (etc.) in yourself.  The fear of letting others downs can end up letting yourself down — or someone very close to you.

I know you’ve been there. Some of us are there more than others. Are you there now?

Here’s a little tip I came across years ago:  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULDYou are talented, competent and capable of doing a lot of great things.  You want to be thoughtful, helpful, productive and kind.  When there’s something to be done, you may feel like you should jump in and do it.  Well, not necessarily!

When you say, “yes” to something, recognize that you are saying “no” to something else.  What are you saying “no” to?  You might be saying “no” to much needed alone time, exercise, conversation and connection with loved ones, or sleep.  Do you really want to make that trade-off?  Sometimes the answer will be yes.

The point is to be conscious of the trade-off.

I struggle with saying, “no” at times, too. Like you, I am capable of doing a lot of great things. I don’t like to let people down. I want to be helpful and contribute to my communities.

So I struggled when the President of the Parent Association at my kids’ school asked me to co-lead a new initiative with her. I really liked her and thought it would be fun to work with her. The initiative was a worthy cause and one that I was sure I could do well.

However, I was already overcommitted.  I knew in my gut that another project would be too much. And still, I was leaning toward accepting.

I paused long enough for the President to notice my hesitation. She then said something unexpected:  “It’s OK to say no.”

“It is?” I replied. “Wow, thank you. No.”

I was so relieved. All she had to do was reassure me that she wouldn’t be upset if I said no. And then the no was clear.

So that’s my second tip for you . . . whenever someone asks you to do something that is optional, imagine that person following up the request with, “It’s OK to say no.”

Because it is.

You may still decide to say yes!  That decision depends on your own set of values and commitments, for sure.  But to say no in order to protect your highest values and commitments is most definitely OK!

And if you want to decline, but can’t right away, perhaps you can say, “Let me think about it.” Then give yourself some time to consciously consider what you will happily say “no” to, in order to make room for this new, “yes.”

Let me know what you think!  I always appreciate your comments ( :

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31 Aug

In parenting, I do better when I feel better. How about you?

When my 3rd baby was born, something happened to my 2nd-born.  She transformed from a sweet, cheerful, optimistic and easy-going child into a needy, super-sensitive, irritating being.  She was bugging the crap out of me.  I didn’t like the way I was feeling, and I definitely did not like the parent I was being.  So I enrolled in my first parenting class.

The parenting class was great.  I learned a ton and gained many new tools.  Our relationship improved, and her neediness declined.  However, I am aware that my goal in taking a parenting class at that time was to change my child — to get her to stop being so irritating.  Wrong goal.

Many years later, while training to become a life and leadership coach, I began to see my role as parent in a new light.  For the first time in a long time, I took some time to reflect — not on my kids, my husband, my home or my career, but on me!

I began to reflect about what I needed to feel happy, peaceful, “on purpose” and fulfilled.  I began to listen to my heart rather than always my brain.  I allowed myself to let go of some long-held beliefs about who I “should” be, and began to explore who I really was.  And in doing so, magically, my children started to become more easy-going, joyful, and cooperative.  Huh?

Dad with Daughter balanced on feetIt’s a lesson that you probably already know:  when we feel more grounded and “balanced,” that confidence and ease breeds the same in others, including our kids.  I’m not saying that parenting tools aren’t helpful.  They are incredibly helpful!  But for me, the real transformation happened when my goal changed:  from getting my kids to do better, to getting myself to feel better.

“Children do better when they feel better” is a famous quote by Dr. Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline.  But it’s not just true for children.  It’s true for everyone.

What do you need to feel more balanced and fulfilled?  How can you get more of that in your life? (Life is too short to feel chronically stressed-out, bummed-out, exhausted, irritated or burnt-out!)  Take some time to ask yourself these questions.  Take a risk on having the life you dream of.  What are you waiting for?  You’ll feel better, you’ll do better, and that’s better for your kids, too.

If you’d like some help getting the process started, contact me to set up a 30-minute sample coaching call.

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30 Jun

5 Tips for Work / Life Balance (whether you work for pay or not)

“Balance” means something different to everyone.  But we all know how it feels.  And have you noticed that when you feel it, parenting (and everything) is so much easier? 

Balance RocksTo me, “balance” does not mean having equal amounts of things.  Rather, it means having as much of something as you need, in order to feel a sense of peace, fulfillment, and general well-being.

For example, some people need lots of challenging work; others need just a little.  Some people need lots of social time; others need plenty of alone time.

Your recipe for “balance” is unique to you.  What does your recipe call for, and in what amounts?  What “ingredients” have you been short on?  And what ingredients have you been adding, simply because that’s what someone else’s recipe calls for?

I would love to help you get clear on what’s in YOUR recipe.  Contact me to explore coaching.

In the mean time, here are 5 tips to get you closer to “just right.”

1. Let go of perfection.  Someone once said, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” Well, I don’t agree! There are some things that are worth doing very, very well. But not everything. Some things are worth doing “good enough.” When we put pressure on ourselves to do everything well, it takes up an awful lot of time and energy, and there’s little left for other priorities.  (What’s more, perfectionism is a leading cause of anxiety in both children and adults.)

As a person, letting go of perfection may mean stopping yourself from re-reading your email for the 5th time to make sure it’s perfectly said.  As a parent, it may mean frozen pizza for dinner some nights so that you have time to play with your kids or read a book for pleasure. As a professional, it may mean that you delegate to someone more junior even though you know you could do it better.

2.  Ask for help.  If you feel like you’re doing too much of the work (in your home, team, community, etc.) it’s probably because you are.  Ask for help!  It may be true that your partner/direct report/child/mother/nanny/etc. will not do it as well as you will . . . Maybe that’s OK!  (see tip #1 above.) It may be true that everyone else is also busy. . . They can tell you if so.  Or maybe you are assuming that others don’t want to, or can’t help. . . They may surprise you (especially your kids.)

When you ask for help, you are not only freeing up your own time, but you are also giving others an opportunity to learn and grow, to be helpful themselves, and you are sending them a message that you believe they are capable.

3.  Do less.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  You are talented, competent and capable of doing a lot of great things.  You want to be thoughtful, helpful, productive and kind.  When there’s something to be done, you may feel like you should jump in and do it.  Well, not necessarily!

When you say “yes” to something, recognize that you are saying “no” to something else.  What are you saying “no” to?  You might be saying “no” to much needed alone time, exercise, conversation and connection with loved ones, or sleep.  Do you really want to make that trade-off?  Sometimes the answer will be yes.  The point is to be conscious of the trade-off.

4.  Ask for what you need.  This sounds so simple but I assure you, for many, it is not!  I see client after client who knows what s/he needs, but is afraid to ask.  Why not just ask?  Of course you’ll want to ask tactfully, but don’t be afraid to be human, have needs, and make them known.

For example, if you want to work out during the work day, let your boss know and negotiate a win-win.  If you need some time alone in the evening to read or take a bath, ask your partner, “Hey Honey, this is something that would really help me feel like a balanced human being.  Will you please _____ so that I can do that?”   You might just get what you ask for.

5.  Let go of guilt.  Very often, busy parents don’t take care of their own needs because they feel guilty doing so.  But if you often feel exhausted, pushed to your limits, irritable and resentful, it’s a good sign that your guilt is not serving you.  It’s taken me a loooooooong time to appreciate this fact, but I now whole-heartedly believe that self-care is your most powerful lever for balance.  This includes sleep, exercise, and even plain old pleasure.

I know, in the chaos of getting through the day, it’s incredibly hard to prioritize yourself.  However, chronically sacrificing your own needs for those of others will leave you depleted and resentful.  The airlines tell you to “put your own oxygen mask on first” for a very good reason:  you can’t care for others if you’re dead (metaphorically, of course!)  So how do you make time for self care?  Re-read the top 4 tips!

I know you’ve already figured out a lot about how to achieve balance.  Please share your ideas for everyone (including me) in the comment section here!

Would you like some support in finding your balance? Contact me to set up a free 30-minute sample coaching session via phone.


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