About eight years ago, I went to the doctor for some health problems including brain fog, fatigue, and overall lack of joy in life. The last in particular was atypical for me. I left that appointment with a prescription in hand for an anti-depressant. The idea that I might be clinically depressed was jarring, as I have no history of depression, and needing a prescription made it feel very serious.
I called my husband in tears and he offered to leave work and talk over coffee. I remember him asking something along the lines of “Do I have permission to speak freely?” (I have a tendency to get irritated, even upset, when someone offers unsolicited advice about how to live my life.) I said yes. In one sentence, he delivered the most accurate diagnosis I could have received. “I think you’re over-committed.”
Previously I would have objected to his perspective, not because it was inaccurate, but because I didn’t want to change. I like being a helper, taking things off people’s plates, and being known as the go-to gal. But after this appointment, I was open to change.
True to my nature, I processed the idea by making a list of all of my commitments. My commitments included running a mastermind group, participating in three networking groups, some side work, participating in Toastmasters, teaching Sunday School once a month, helping cook the church dinner once a month, leading a music team at church once a month, attending a weekly small group, doing my actual job that I earned an income from… sadly, I didn’t notice until I got to the end of the list that my husband wasn’t on it. That was a different wake-up call for a separate conversation (or blog post).
I then listed out the amount of time I spent for each commitment, including the time I spent in meetings and outside of meetings (emails can be such a timesuck!). I also listed the amount of money I spent on each. I then used highlighters to color code which were church commitments, which were work commitments, and which were personal. I spent some time thinking about what I wanted my life to look like, got advice from others, invited feedback from my husband, and ended up quitting about half of the things on my list.
What happened? The world kept spinning. Within two weeks of quitting half of my load, every single symptom I went to the doctor for had improved or resolved. No one hated me or even got mad at me. I learned it is much easier to say no (though still hard) than to “un-say” your res. I learned that I didn’t need a conflicting commitment to say no to something, that it was perfectly acceptable to tell someone I didn’t have the capacity to take on something new.
Surprisingly to me (which It shouldn't have been), all of the important people in my life actually understood and respected my boundaries. In fact, some of them even invited me to be a guest speaker to talk about this new way of living! You're welcome to email me if you'd like a copy of my handout, which is strongly inspired by the book The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. (Eventually I'll figure out how to upload it so you can just download it) IThere are journal prompts, suggested action items, and a place to list habits that support you living your “best yes”.
The ending to my story? These days I still find myself over-committed at times and having to make changes. I still hate having to say no, though I’m a lot better at it now. And I’ve learned to take my husband’s advice. Sometimes. 😉