Finding Peace in the No
Every Monday I receive a text from The Minimalists—they call them Minimal Maxims. This one moved me to shout, “Yes!!!” as I read it.
“When you say 'yes' to everything, you accidentally say 'no' to your own tranquility.”
That resonated so deeply, I immediately put in a call to the chairman of a state coalition I’ve been a member of and told him I was resigning. I suggested a replacement. I had been thinking about it for months because I no longer enjoyed participating, nor did I feel I was offering as much as I was able to offer when I first agreed to participate. Why did I stay so long? Expectations? Perhaps. Why did I continue to say yes when everything in me screamed no? Ego? Sure. People pleasing? Maybe. Fear of missing out? In the past, but no longer. When I joined, I knew I had something to offer that no one else had in this area: a combination of contacts and experience. That has changed. I’ll still make my contacts available without having to sit on the coalition. That makes me feel good because I don’t have to feel guilty I’m not contributing adequately. It’s good for them because they’ll have someone supporting their efforts without taking up space in the group.
When I was a nonprofit and political fundraiser, I advised my clients to set board members free when they weren’t helpful and engaged. I would hear stories of members saying, “I need to resign because I don’t have the time,” or, “I feel bad that I can’t be more supportive or raise any money.” Then the CEO would say, “It’s ok…even if you can’t make the meetings, we want you on the board,” or “It’s alright, just do what you can.” No! Set them free! Why have them feel guilty and others feel resentful? Set them free and open that space for the right person at the right time. Thank them for being honest and validate them for serving for the length of time that was right for them and the organization. These shouldn’t be lifetime terms.
Recently I was asked to give a keynote speech at a conference for a nonprofit group. I said yes because a friend asked me to do it, and because my ego was fed by the request. I realized quite quickly that preparing for that was going to take all my focus and it was going to hurt the business projects I had committed to complete around the same time. With a lot of guilt, once again, I contacted my friend and told her I wouldn’t be able to give the keynote, told her the truth about why and offered to find a replacement. It turned out to be a gift for both of us because the person who replaced me is very high profile and fabulous. It’s amazing how everything works out when we honor ourselves and the truth.
My goal now is to listen to my inner voice more closely and to say no before I say yes, when that’s what I really mean. Also, remember that we have the right to change our mind. Life happens, circumstances shift, our wants, desires and needs change…and that’s okay. Keep the words of The Minimalists in mind and say yes to tranquility. Oh, and don’t forget to honor those who do the same!
President, The Zen Speaker