For the most part, we as humans are naturally helpful and supportive of one another. We band together to solve complex problems, look out for one another, and go to great strides individually to create stability and security for more than just ourselves. We’re adept at taking on many challenges and balancing concurrent activities. However, with all that we can do, it’s easy to forget what we should, or shouldn’t do in order to preserve personal goals, time, and effectively manage our stress levels.
Stress is the great equalizer. Even in calmer times, this condition of our daily lives can deplete energy levels, wreak havoc on our immune systems, and become a destructive force to our mental health. In fact, mismanaged or protracted stress has been found to be a major cause of anxiety and depression. With extreme increases in the conditional spread of anxiety and depression, there are immediate effects on our ability to manage new challenges, maintain existing workstreams, and navigate demanding relationships—all at the same time. For this reason, it’s critical to understand the power of the word NO.
From a young age we’re taught that NO is a barrier to progress. That NO means liberties are limited, and freedoms are revoked. In turn, the word NO has become associated with negativity, aggression and non-compliance. However, the opposite is truer. When we say YES to everything, we’re actually creating constrictions to time and attention that could be better spent on what matters most, rather than on what just came up. True that it’s in our nature to want to help. That supporting others by saying YES unequivocally is the norm for many. But in times like these, being mindful of what YES truly means and how it effects your bottom line, is an absolute for setting critical boundaries for yourself.
Take some time to assess what’s really important to you. Is it personal goals, team goals, time with family, productivity, mental health, financial security, or physical well-being? How are you balancing your priorities? What’s the effect of it all on your ability to keep a positive outlook? Whatever you decide, assess how the time and effort you spend in support of those priorities is taxed by external requests, distractions or demands. Then, build comfort in your ability to say NO. Actively set boundaries by articulating those needs to yourself and others. For the most part, we as humans are naturally helpful and supportive of one another. You might be surprised at how quickly others create space for what you need. Most importantly though, you need to be prepared to say NO not just to others, but to yourself as well. Knowing your limits means you must be resolute not push past them.
Boundaries in life are an absolute. There are countless governing forces that ensure there are limits to every law in nature. Your nature is no different. Assess yourself, know your boundaries and be prepared to defend them. Afterall, the word NO instantly loses its negative bias once you finally realize who benefits from it the most. According to Sarri Gilman’s TED Talk—and common sense—good boundaries set you free.
You matter, stand up for yourself.
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
– Steve Jobs
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