We all have them.
The things in our lives that keep us busy, but don’t fill us up.
Being the class mom.
Always watching your neighbor’s kids.
Hanging out with that friend you really don’t have a connection with, but feel obligated to see.
The punch list is different for everyone.
But it adds up to the same reality: a knotted mess of commitments that you dread, that aren’t necessary to the family and that are done out of guilt, obligation or a desire to please.
A few weeks ago, I realized I was feeling scattered. I couldn’t even focus on what day it was, let alone what I needed to get done, who was having surgery or a birthday, or who was texting me, or when we were supposed to hang out. It sounds ridiculous because those things shouldn’t stress someone out. But they did.
I finally realized why I was feeling so overwhelmed and… well, vacant.
I’d taken on too much.
And so, as the new year approached, I was primed and ready to make one commitment for the whole year.
I will only say yes to things I am wildly passionate about.
After caring for my family and keeping the kids alive, the only other items that are allowed on my calendar will…
Fill me up.
Bring me joy.
Contribute to the character I want.
And feed my passion.
Everything else… well, everything else is crap.
Excuse the word, but that’s really the only way to describe it.
It’s crap because it’s junk that isn’t important to your life. It’s crap because it’s clutter that keeps you busy, but doesn’t contribute to your greater purpose. It’s crap because it’s small snippets of wasted time that steal your joy and don’t add value to your life.
And so, I finally decided, it’s time to stop doing the crap and start making room for the awesome stuff.
Here’s how I’m doing it:
1. Just say no!
Remember the old slogan?
To kids in the 80’s, it meant stay off drugs.
And as adults, it can help stave off a new addiction: the desire to please strangers and impress people who don’t matter, and as a result, take on meaningless obligations because we feel like we have to (but we really don’t).
Does your mother-in-law insist on getting together for every single family member’s birthday? Text her (or better yet, ask your husband to), and say something like, “We love celebrating everyone’s special day, but our lives are getting too hectic with school schedules and otherwise, so we’re only going to be able to make one a month. Is it possible to condense each month’s birthday celebrations into one get-together?” If she agrees, great! If not, you’ve already set your boundary that you’ll be at one per month.
Do you say yes to the same loathed volunteer position at your kid’s school each year because you’re “so good at it” and “there’s no one else to do it?” Oh well. I hate to sound mean, but that’s their problem. They will find someone else. No one will die.
Do you devote a day a year to seeing old friends who have moved away, but that you don’t have too much in common with anymore? Don’t feel bad about bowing out if you want to. Life gets busy. Real friends will understand.
The bottom line is, decide what’s important to you, and say ‘no’ to everything else.
Not everyone will be happy about it.
But you will be.
And that matters.
Because your happiness is important.
2. Use text or email.
Call it the easy way out, call it the wimpy approach, I don’t care. You gotta do what you gotta do, and I make no apologies for it. But even for a pretty straight-forward communicator like me, it can be hard to say ‘no’ when you’re face-to-face with someone. So sometimes, if I don’t have the balls to shirk a commitment in-person, I’ll say something like, “let me think about it,” or my personal favorite, “let me check with my husband.” Then later, I’ll send a brief email or text that says no. Also, in most cases, you also don’t need to give a reason. The less they know the better!
3. Be brief.
You don’t need to go into a novel of why you can’t do something. Own it! They don’t need to know all the details. You have priorities in your life, and many other obligations, and this one doesn’t just fit. End of story.
Here are a few examples:
“Hey guys, I’m not going to be able to make it. Ya’ll have fun!”
“I’m trying to simplify my schedule, so I’m going to sit this one out. Maybe next time!”
“I can’t this time. Sad to miss!”
“We are in a super busy season right now, but I’ll let you know when that changes!”
“It’s not going to work for me this time. I’m really trying to edit down my calendar right now. Thanks for including me!”
4. Say yes only to things you are wildly passionate about.
This is the best part!
Think about what you truly love in life, and go do it!
To start, look at your calendar. After the must-do responsibilities (like keeping the kids alive, grocery shopping, work, etc.), look for the empty space. This represents the time in your life that you could use do things you are wildly passionate about, rather than continuing with meaningless, stale obligations that you hate.
Have you always loved reading but never have time to do it? Sign up for a library card and spend a couple hours browsing the shelves!
Do you love to grow your own vegetables? Buy an online kit and schedule a Saturday to get your hands dirty.
Have you always wanted to get your real estate license? Buy the books online, find a mentor and get to it.
We only have one life.
Spend it doing the things you love, not feeling obligated to the things you hate.
So, I’m going to start doing the awesome stuff. And I hope you will too.
Just remember, it all starts with one little word.
What extra obligations in your schedule could you clear out, and more importantly, what are you wildly passionate about?!? I can’t wait to read your responses in the comments section below.
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