Of all the words in the human vocabulary, the most difficult one for most of us to utter is, ironically, a tiny, two-letter word spelt N-O.
Yet, this little two-letter word is more important than we realised. Without it, we cannot set clear boundaries in our lives, and without clear boundaries, we will be pulled in every direction, running endlessly yet going nowhere, much like a hamster on a hamster wheel.
I used to be one who found it difficult to set and keep boundaries in my life. I was one of those who were unable to say ‘No’… to friends, colleagues, family members, acquaintances and, (would you believe it?) even strangers!
Whenever I turned down a request, I would feel really bad. Whenever my boundaries were crossed, I would simply grit my teeth and “suffer” in silence.
However, whenever I endured in silence, I would usually realise an uneasy feeling growing inside me – a feeling of resentment, of frustration.
As I grow older, I learned to use the powerful, two-letter word without feeling guilty.
And you know what? The more you learned to say “No” to people who crossed your boundaries, the more confident you would feel doing it.
So, yes, it is easier for me to say “No” now.
The results? I have more breathing space. I learnt that it is not true that everyone else’s needs are more important than mine. I do not live like a martyr. More importantly, I am happier, more confident and more productive.
These are some steps we can take to a life of greater sanity:
1. Know your boundaries.
This is tied closely to your priorities. What are important to you and what are not, at this stage of your life right now? Make a list of all your priorities. A few of my top priorities now are my family, children and my plans to start a business.
Given 24 hours a day, there is just so much we can focus on, without compromising on other aspects of our lives. Which is why it is vital to know what is important and what is not.
Once you know your priorities, it is easier to draw your boundaries and know what to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to.
2. Set your boundaries.
What’s the use of knowing your priorities if you don’t do something to make them your priorities? So, it is vital to set your boundaries after knowing where your boundaries are. Take practical steps to put your boundaries in place.
For example, if you know that your priority is to have dinner with your spouse and kids on certain days of the week, make plans to leave your workplace on time.
Or if you know that your priority is to have a few hours a week to recharge, make plans to let someone take care of the housework and kids so that you can be alone.
It might be easier said than done, but it can be done, if we plan for it and make some prior arrangements.
3. Keep your boundaries.
This might be the most challenging part. After knowing our boundaries and setting them, we have to try our utmost to keep them. What’s the use of knowing and setting if we don’t keep them?
So, if you are like me, who are feeling burnt out because you find it hard to say “No”, take these steps NOW to know, set and keep your boundaries.
Here’s to a happier and more productive life! 🙂