I don’t send holiday cards anymore. So, for those of you who thought you fell off my list, it’s actually the list that’s fallen off the list.
I know for many these cards bring a lot of joy—and I do love seeing the cards I receive. But serious stress would set in when I had to find the perfect photo and assemble the list of woefully out of date addresses. My resentment only grew as the return to sender cards would arrive and I inevitably became the default fixer of the mess.
Three years ago, on a particularly busy year, I turned to my husband and said, “I don’t know why we’re doing this every year and I’m done with it.” He expressed mild disappointment, but knew he didn’t want to sign up for the task—so we stopped, without saying more than a few words about it.
As the flurry of perfect baby and puppy photos began wallpapering our home in early December, I felt a few moments of shame and regret. And then I thought about all of the other amazing things I had done that fall instead of assembling the pieces of this project:
- Ran a marathon
- Made a baby shower for a terminally ill friend
- Started a career transition
It was clear I gave up something that was meaningless and time consuming to me for things that were yes—time consuming—but also core to who I am and what fuels me. Of course, giving up on holiday cards was a small tweak to my life, but it was an experiment that gave way to larger changes on how I CHOOSE to spend my precious time and energy.
When you say “no” to something that feels like a drain on your life—no matter how small—you’re opening space to say “yes” to things that are meaningful to you. I must warn you, that once you get started, these moments of rebellion are delightfully satisfying. Get ready.
Take these steps to start saying “no” to things so you can shift your priorities:
- Make a list of all the tasks (or in some cases, people!) that are both time-consuming and energy sucking. Call it “Drains.”
- Create a 2nd list of things you’re dying to do, but feel you don’t have the time. Call this one, “Dreams.”
- Go back through your Drains list and put a star next to the items for which absolutely nothing would happen if you stopped doing them. (Why you continue to do them could be the subject of several other posts.)
- Write down how it would feel to give up these drains.
- Choose 1 Drain to give up and 1 Dream to add.
- Figure out a way to celebrate making this change. You’re practicing living a life made up of your choices. It may seem small at first, but it’s a symbol of what’s possible.
While you’re celebrating, a special shout-out goes out to the toughest drains on your list—people. You need not aim to change the people on your list, but rather change your behavior toward them.
There may be people on your list who don’t support you when you’re doing things that are important to you. It’s ok that they don’t support you. Not everyone must support you in everything you do. But it’s not helpful for you to continue to talk about it with them or to try to convince them. You can set a boundary that you understand their point of view, you respect it, but it’s no longer helpful for you to discuss whatever that topic is that brings you pain—and by the way—is going nowhere. How much time could you have back in your life if you weren’t trying to convince others of your worth or the “rightness” of your decisions?
For some of you, you might just be able to check off that triathlon from your bucket list and for others, you could at least fit in more time with the best friends you never get to see.
Whatever dreams you create in your life, it’s thrilling to know that you have the power to make these shifts whenever you’re ready to do so.
The choice is yours.