Fashion is the way I introduce myself to the world, every day, without saying anything.

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We all do it – overbook, overwork, overstress. Saying “you’re so busy” in New York reeks of redundancy (more on the drama of busy in an upcoming post). But just because it’s absurdly common doesn’t stop the feeling that your everyday obstacles are crowding out your sanity.

Problem is: it’s all our own doing. We choose a messy, overflowing daily life by saying yes to just about everything asked of us. Yes, I’ll go have dinner with you; yes, I’ll pick up that shift; yes, I’ll water your houseplants; yes, I’ll troll Facebook; yes, I’ll put up with your incompetency, bad judgment, negative attitude…

Now don’t get me wrong, saying yes can be a beautiful thing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZWYF1BzKWEhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZWYF1BzKWE

But saying an indiscriminate yes to everything means you’re actually saying no to a life of peace, calm, balance, and perspective. You’re saying no to a life that looks like you.  So how do you start saying yes to THAT?

Start by saying no.

When we cut the fat from our lives, when we get clear on what we actually want (instead of hoarding time-wasting activities, bad habits, and draining friends), we can create a framework around our everyday that looks more like us and less like a hot mess.

Three steps to help you get to no:

1. Slow down before committing. Put space between you and the answer. Wait to respond to that email, take a deep breath before you blurt out a response, or simply say I need to get back to you on that one. For over-achievers and people-pleasers, timeliness = a gold star. But before you so eagerly shout your limitless availability from the rooftops, think about the quality of what you’re about to give. If you are constantly making up for someone else’s workload, or worse, taking on too much because of your own need to please, how strong can that work even be? If you are constantly listening to your friend’s latest issues, but she never returns the favor, how compassionate can that relationship be? Instead of giving yourself (or desperately seeking from others) that gold star for being the fastest to respond, “yes, of course,”  slow down, consider, and then choose the answer that gives your quality of life a boost. It’ll ripple out, and that quality will give others a boost as well.

2. Stop wasting your own time. How many hours do you spend in an activity that leaves you paralyzed in one spot? My terrible habit is The Social Media Vortex of Hell. You know.. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine.
IMG_2248I love all of those things, until I binge so much on them that I know more about random acquaintances than I do my own husband. If you tallied (truthfully) how many hours you spent at your computer staring at the screen (or any other vice that makes your eyes go sour and leaves you with a pit in your stomach over how much better Random Person #67’s life is than yours), you would be horrified.
If it doesn’t refresh, energize, stimulate, or inspire you – you don’t need it. You can easily cut that fat by checking in with yourself – ask, do I want to be doing this? Am I just stuck and not making a choice? What do I need right now? Relaxation? Productivity? Real human connection? Don’t take for granted that you always know how you feel. Ask yourself what you need and then say no to the things that keep you away from it.

photo-33. Create and maintain boundaries. I realize this conflicts with the previous thought I had on opening yourself up to people. But it’s a riff on the same theme: say yes to what aligns with your bigger vision and say no to what doesn’t. If you are in desperate need of work-life-balance and you keep saying yes to extended hours, extra work, and office drama – you are giving the illusion that this is okay with you! A boundary could be something as little as refusing to get in on the office politics. By not saying anything rude or unnecessary about your colleagues or even by the simple act of not raising your voice, you teach others to stop acting that way around you. You cannot assume everyone has your well-being in mind, but you CAN absolutely assume that if you teach them what lines you refuse to cross, they won’t be able to ignore them. And don’t get it twisted, creating boundaries doesn’t keep people out, it teaches people the most effective way to get in. By being authentic what you will and won’t stand for, you are allowing people to know the real you – and when they know you, you can work together to create the kind of space, energy, partnership, marriage, art, business, world(!) that lifts up all of us.

No is a powerful tool. It’s the line in the sand. At the end of the day, it will teach people to recognize who you are by what you value and uphold – and that, my friends, is the goldest star of all.

When do you find it difficult to say no? Do you find it challenging to create space and boundary? When you know what you need, are you able to stand up for it?

 
 
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