Leading from a place of no

Do you ever feel like you’re downing in “opportunity”?  You’re swimming along and the water just seems to be getting deeper and deeper.  Then, suddenly, the current is pulling you under as you look at your calendar and your to-do list and you realize that there is no way those two things are ever going to match up.  You are an expert swimmer, but no one does laps in class 5 rapids – not even you.  When you say yes to every single “opportunity” that comes your way, you’ve made the swimming much more difficult if not impossible.

There is an easy way around this, though.  It’s as simple as changing your initial response to each opportunity, commitment, and favor asked as it presents itself.  Instead of initially thinking ‘yes’ and then trying to figure out how you’re going to make it all work, I’d like to challenge you to initially think ‘no’.  I call this subtle but profound shift “leading from a place of no”. The key here is to note that this shift only happens in your mind.  No one else needs to know about this change, but I promise you, it’s much easier to figure out how you actually want to be spending your time when you’re choosing from things you’ve already said no to than when you’re trying to cut out things you’ve said yes to.  This is true even if it’s all only happening in your brain.

Let me give you an example.  I was recently asked to co-chair an ethics committee in our hospital system.  I was immediately flattered to hear that one of my colleagues had recommended me and that feeling of flattery drove me want to immediately commit.  I respect my policy, however, and I told myself no.  When you do this, you are going to find one of two things will happen.  Often you will feel an immediate sense of relief.  This is telling you that no is the right answer.  The other possibility is that you will find that you feel some sadness or regret.  This is telling you that no might be something that you want to reconsider, but you don’t have to go jumping into the deep end just yet.

That no has given you an amazing gift.  It has forced your brain to pause.  You now have the opportunity to test your waters.  Look at your current commitments.  Do you really have time for something else?  Where exactly will this fit into your schedule?  What will you sacrifice for this opportunity – free time, family time, exercise?  Will it be something that, if I asked you what you want more of, you’d be giving up?  If the answer to that is yes, then the answer to this proposition is still no. 

Oh, and it is no without guilt, my friend!  No one is making more hours in the day.  No one else is going to advocate for prioritizing your time.  Next week we’re going to talk about assessing your time priorities and comparing them to how you actually spend your 24 hours of the day.  If you’re still looking for help letting go of that guilt, however, we’d love to work with you to show you how.