I was thinking this past week about a fascinating book I read two summers ago: Essentialism: the Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Greg talks about paring life down to the bare essentials to accomplish more. It’s an interesting concept, and harder to put in practice than it is in theory.
But first, how are you today? Happy Valentine’s weekend! Love it when Saturday rolls around. Means the weekend is officially here. Got a few things I’ve been thinking re: Say No to Say Yes today, some interesting concepts.
And let’s talk weather. It sure feels like tundra around here. (How ’bout where you are?) It’s seriously wicked cold here today. On Thursday afternoon the temperature plummeted like a rock, maybe thirty degrees in the afternoon. Brrrr… and it’s frigid, a low of -8° predicted today. And tomorrow -11°. On top of that, there’s the wind chill. Here’s what’s comin’ in these parts:
“NH: Wind Chill Warning remains in effect from midnight Saturday night to 10 AM EST Sunday.
- Hazard types: dangerous wind chill readings.
- Wind Chill, as low as 35 to 40 below.
- Timing: late Saturday night and Sunday morning.
- Impacts: Frostbite and hypothermia if unprotected from the cold.
- Winds: northwest 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.
- Temperatures: 2 below to 14 below zero.”
Ooooeeeee! Definitely our coldest front so far this winter, so snuggle up everybody!
Back to Say No to Say Yes. Here are a few interesting questions Greg McKeown asks in Essentialism:
- Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?
- Do you sometimes feel overworked and underutilized?
- Do you feel motion sickness instead of momentum?
- Does your day sometimes get hijacked by someone else’s agenda?
- Have you ever said “yes” simply to please and then resented it?
Greg talks about spending quality time making goals and priorities based on your values, then cutting out extraneous things to free up the time to accomplish those goals.
The book was especially interesting reading because I was nearing the launch of this blog. And of course I wanted to succeed here, but wondered how I could fit full-time blogging into an already seemingly crazy schedule including four kids, one of whom is special needs. And I still wanted to keep doing all the other things I love.
And the truth is, that goal itself was an impossible one from the get go.
In Essentialism, Greg suggests you can pour your energy into many different areas and accomplish a little in each area.
Or you can narrow your goals. Put more time, energy and focus into just a few things and accomplish a lot more.
Some of you may wonder why we’re even talking about this. Because you already figured this out years ago. Well bear with me. Some of us are late bloomers. (Me.)
I boiled down Greg’s simple formula to this: Say No to Say Yes. In order to pare things down you say no to some things so you can say yes to others. A simple concept, but not as easy as it sounds.
I seriously have no problem saying no to my kids. I’m pretty used to it. You might remember in the post Dream on Kid I asked them to write idea lists of fun things to do over summer vacation.
My bigger kids suggested things like a day at the beach, playing basketball with friends, etc. And Charlie, 8 at the time, quietly and smugly composed a list of twenty-three world class destinations, beginning with Walt Disney World and ending with the Grand Canyon, Paricutin Volcano, Victoria Falls and Mount Everest. (More on that.) He wasn’t kidding, not a bit of it. My little opportunist. As I said, I have no problem saying no to my kids.
But it gets trickier (is that a word?) saying no graciously to adults. I’ve previously mentioned I’m a natural people pleaser. The tough thing is, as my life has significantly changed over the last decade, first with Hudson’s needs (Hudson’s 5, has Down syndrome) and now working full-time, I’ve had to say no more than ever in my life. Ouch! (Who wants to be the bad guy? Or girl.)
If you’re like I was, you get that sick pit in your stomach whenever someone asks you to do something you know you don’t have the time or energy to do. Because you hate saying no. I often said yes just to make them happy. But yes is the wrong answer if you can’t legitimately do what you’re asked to do without shortchanging someone else on the other end. Sure you can say yes, but more often than not, you’ll have to say no to something or someone else down the line. And it’s usually the people you love most, your family… as you run ragged scrambling at 1 or 2 a.m. trying to squeeze it all in. Yep. Been there, done that. Sometimes “no” or “not right now” is the right answer.
One wise friend explained it to me this way. (I call it the lego concept.) Each person is like a lego piece. We all have only so many little relational “connections”. You know what I’m talking about right? Those little bumps on a lego. They’re actually called “studs.” (Truth: I looked it up in the Lego dictionary. Yep. There’s a Lego dictionary.) During different seasons of our lives, those studs fill up, and we just can’t absorb or take on any additional responsibilities or relationships. And that’s when we have to say no. I used to think not so long ago that if something or someone was truly important, I’d somehow make the time. That’s true up to a point. But you know what? The older I get, the more wonderful people I meet and opportunities I’m afforded. But still only twenty-four hours in the day. That’s why intentionally paring down goals, then staying focused on those few goals is helping me stay true to course and accomplish more.
So I’ll give you a concrete example. One of the goals I made after reading the book Essentialism was to create a blog community here at THLG that would hopefully bring joy to many and generate needed income for our family. That meant I’d have to say no to a lot of other things I used to do. Give up activities I love, like having regular coffees with dear friends, chatting on the phone, posting on Facebook, playing the piano weekly at church, knitting socks, hosting knitting club, volunteering often, entertaining regularly. And so many other little pleasures I love but can’t squeeze in. It’s not that I can’t ever do those things. I just do them less often, carefully pick and choose, and strategically space them.
Another commitment/goal I made was to be present at my boys’ sports games and school events. To very intentionally spend time with my family. Many of you know I missed many of my bigger boys’ sports games, recitals and special events because of Hudson’s health complications as a baby and toddler. That was really hard. And Jonathan heads off to college this fall. Now that Hudson’s health is stable, I don’t want to miss any more special moments. This mama just can’t. And I’m only able to stay true to that goal of being present for them if I say no to other invitations, suggestions and opportunities. For a season.
A potential drawback to the principles of Essentialism is that they can easily become an excuse for self-focus and narcissism. Always concentrating on your own goals and the fastest way to get there. Emergencies happen. Friends get sick. Family comes first. It’s absolutely essential (no pun intended) to be sensitive to the needs of those around us, and it’s a balancing act for sure.
If you’re in a particularly full life season like I am now, you get this: life is short. I feel it slipping through my fingers just a little more each day. (And if you’re older than me, you get it on an even deeper level.)
But I want to encourage you, especially if you struggle saying no and prioritizing like me. Don’t cave in to that pressure to say yes on the fly. Or feel guilty when you have to say no. Take your time responding to requests. Because I’m finding that “no” gets just a little easier each time. And consciously visualizing my boys and family on the occasions I have to say it, helps.
But I’m also human, don’t like disappointing people. So I remind myself often that my boys won’t be living at home forever. And the day will come sometime down the road when another “stud” will open on my lego. And I’ll again have the time and space for new relationships, responsibilities and opportunities.
For now, I’m practicing saying no, to say yes. Because giving myself permission to sometimes say no to even great opportunities and precious people, allows me to say yes to my husband, boys and pressing responsibilities and goals. And that brings greater freedom and joy longterm.
A recent post, Permission ties in well to this one.