Saying "no" to say "yes"

My favorite kind of meal is tapas. Everyone orders a little something and you all share the gems you’ve found on the menu. You may be paying more for smaller portions, but the endless variation of possibilities is priceless.

I’m an options gal, a true ENFP. If you ask me what the bottom line is, I’ll ask what other lines there are. Don’t ask me my favorite artist or song – it will just stress me out to choose one over all the others.  When deciding between two or more ideas, I first try to see how many I can make work simultaneously. If I have to work on a project all night I might as well add friends and ice cream, right?

When I found myself burned out (to a crisp) two years ago, all of my normal options failed me. I couldn’t balance the life I had made.  I knew I had to change, but I couldn’t just add more  into an already over packed schedule.

In desperation, I started saying no to a lot of events, ideas, and tasks to stay home and get the rest I needed. It was so painful. Every time I replied “no” to a party I felt like a piece of me was being ripped off (dramatic, but true). I quit all the superfluous and brought my entire schedule down to only the necessary: eat, sleep, work, a few good friends.

Without realizing it, I had shaped my identity on all the things I was capable of doing. When I was no longer capable, when it hurt to move, I no longer knew who I was. Surely I wasn’t this sick, tired, weak person who forgot my keys and couldn’t form a whole sentence. When my body suddenly got better, I kept saying "no." I did this until I figured out what was worth saying "yes" to; life-giving rhythms that would surround me with joy, kindness, wisdom and creativity.

Not everyone can strip down to an almost blank slate like I did. In fact, I sincerely hope and pray you never have to! It was not an enjoyable process. So what about your process? How can you cut out the busy extras in your life to make room for what you need?

Maybe you're a parent, with young children at home. Your life, when you’re not working or trying to hold an adult conversation, is dominated by naps, tantrums and birthday parties. You feel like you can’t change your schedule, cut out or add anything to your already hectic life. What is one small thing you can stop doing so that you can start intentionally adding a rhythm that is life-giving?

You may be a single person like me, working hard at both your job and your side-gig, focusing on moving forward in your vocation with purpose and meaning. I still have trouble saying "no" to dinner parties and other invites, thinking of all the people I might meet and the idea-forming conversations I might have. Say no to one event. Keep one night at home for yourself (or in a coffee shop, at the beach, wherever you thrive). Be a little selfish with your time in this season, while you’re the only one responsible for it, so that you can shape who you're becoming.

Wherever you are in life, slow down and catch your breath just for a minute. Think of one "no" you can say this week, whether it’s to an actual invite or just to your high expectations of yourself. Do it, say it, but don't replace whatever it was right way. Give your "no", and then leave some space for the "yes" to come.