It has been one of those weeks again: Time went by in the blink of an eye, my to-do list doubled and things just didn’t work out the way they were supposed to. It’s Friday afternoon, and there are numerous emails waiting for replies in my inbox, photos that need to be edited and texts that want to be reviewed. But above all: I feel tired, stressed, I’m emotionally strung out, I’m moaning, groaning and I loose patience.
Yesterday night when I went to bed, feeling overworked and almost depressed, Patrick asked me what was wrong. My answer came as a surprise to myself: I feel like I’m not in control of my life. Patrick, brutally realistic as he is, shot the answer to all my problems right away: You have to say no more often.
And boy, he’s so right. I evaluated my situation and the feelings I’ve been having these past weeks, and I came to the conclusion that I’ve been preaching water, but drinking wine instead. After my big revelation during Christmas break that there is no point in pressuring myself too much, I made all these plans on how to make things better:
This year, I wanted to work less but more focussed. I wanted to make time for people and projects dear to my heart. I wanted to visit my family more often. I wanted to take a day off in the middle of the week for some me-time. Because we all know life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans – and the time is now! And yet I already notice just a few weeks after the beginning of 2018: This whole project will be a challenge for me.
Truth be told.
I’m a people-pleaser at heart. I love saying yes! In fact, “yes to all” has been Patrick’s and my life motto for a while now. Yes to new projects, yes to new challenges, yes to drinks and dinner invitations with friends, yes to helping other people, just yes to all. The thing is, by saying yes and engaging in new opportinuties or by helping others, I feel useful, important and valuable – and also happy. That is until the feeling of stress and anxiety kicks in and I feel overwhelmed. It comes to a point when I almost feel like crying just because it all seems to be too much.
Do you know this feeling? Saying yes too often is not only a problem in work-related surroundings. It also has tremendous effects on our private life. How often have you said yes to a coffee date or a drinks with friends, when you really felt like you needed a break or an evening in your PJs on your couch? Just because you didn’t want to disappoint your friends, you gave in and said yes in the end.
We say yes because we want to be liked, and the little devil on our shoulder suggests we’re missing out if we dare to say no. Living in an age where crazy busy schedules are seen as a status symbol, and in which we’re joking about time flying by, we have to take even more care of ourselves and our well-being.
Impatient is my middle name.
My dilemma of not feeling in control of my life is aggravated by the fact that I just want a lot. In full disclosure, I want it all. I have so many ideas that my head sometimes feels like exploding, and even worse: I want to put those ideas into action right away.
Since I am self-employed I’m enjoying the freedom of being responsible for my own business and everything that comes with it. I’m still super excited about all the inquiries I’m getting, new jobs I’m able to do, new clients who want to work with me and new opportunities that pop up. The result: I’m very reluctant to cancel anything because first of all, when you’re self-employed you never know when the next chance to earn money will occur, and secondly because of the fear to miss out on something I’d regret in hindsight. Same old story all the way.
In short: All of this is leading up to me diligently continuing to put tasks on my agenda that’s basically full already – and forgetting about all the good intentions I’ve had for this year.
The only way to get out of this downward circling spiral is to be honest to myself, and everyone around me: I am not superwoman (although I’m told I look a bit like Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman) I am not an unlimited resource and I can’t do everything at once. By loading too much on my plate and assuming I can fit it all in with no consequences, I’m running directly into the arms of a burnout. And eventually, I will crash.
The sobering truth?
The feeling that I am not in the driver’s seat of my own life is my own fault, because I’m saying yes too often. As much as I’d like to please everyone, first and foremost of all, I have to please myself. I can’t be everyone’s darling. And that’s fine.
We all only have a certain amount of time, energy, attention, money – whatever resource it is – and how we decide to spend each of those resources is our own choice. We have to choose wisely who and what we dedicate those resources to. To me, it sometimes is beyond difficult to put my own goals first, because it feels selfish and egoistic. However, no one benefits if I’m always giving everything I have when I’m loosing myself at the same time. Additionally, the more I give, the more I feel like people expect of me. It’s the classic principle of offering someone your little finger, and they’re taking your whole hand. Again, I know it’s my own responsibility and I’m the only one who can solve this dilemma. Sitting, waiting and wishing for my life to finally calm down a little bit won’t get rid of the problem. So in order to stop feeling distressed, I will force myself to say no more often.
If every end is a beginning, then every no paves the way for a yes.
In order to put my plans into action, I have just ordered this book by entrepreneur Derek Sivers which I’ve discovered while doing some research on how to learn to say no more often. His concept sounds very promising:
No “yes.” Either “HELL YEAH!” or “no.”
Use this rule if you’re often over-committed or too scattered. If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”. When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.” When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!”
Every event you get invited to. Every request to start a new project. If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about it, say “no.”
We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.
Make “no” a complete sentence.
Here I am now on this Friday afternoon, looking forward to this book and ready to implement the little word “no” to my vocabulary. According to the motto “A fault confessed is half redressed” I’m feeling much better already and my mind is at ease again. I’m looking forward to the upcoming weeks, all the to-dos and the projects that are scheduled. But before that, I’m going to tick off the biggest and most important point on my list: Quality time with my loved ones. See you on Monday – I’m out.