When I work with management teams I often start off the session with two simple questions.  What’s one thing you want in your life that you don’t currently have?  What’s the fear that’s in the way of getting it?

I would say that over 50% of the responses I get to the first question is about time.  “The one thing I want in my life that I don’t currently have is time…..more time to spend with my family, more time to do things I really want to do, more time to spend by myself.”  I hear this type of answer a lot.  I know I’ve felt that way before, specifically when our twins were very young.  Time is such a precious commodity and yet it occurs to me that using time in a way that fills us up is something that many of us struggle with on a daily basis. And when we experience that struggle it almost always results in suffering because we are now engaged in the victim’s game of wishing and hoping……that we had more time….to live the life we really want…..if only we had more time.

There are 168 hours in every week, no more no less.  Try as we might we will never “find” the time to do the things we really want…..spend time with our kids, exercise, read, play a round of golf; travel, whatever that is that we would do if only we could “find” the time.  I have never met a person who was able to “find” time to do the things they want, but I have met people that are really great at creating time in their lives to do the things that fill them up and thereby connect them to their spirit.  They aren’t hard to identify as they are the people walking amongst us who have a certain spring in their step and a noticeable twinkle in their eye as if they have a secret the rest of us don’t know. And the secret that they have, or at least one of them is, that creating time (by prioritizing it) in their day to do the things that connect them to their spirit is not negotiable for them.  They will not yield when it comes to doing the few things that are key to creating a sense of happiness and fulfillment.  It may require them to get up a half hour earlier or stay up an hour later, but they will create the time to do what it is that connects them to their spirit.  Period.

And by doing that, they seem to navigate every aspect of their life a little easier, or more gracefully, or with more passion and purpose.  And as a result, they create powerful outcomes both personally and professionally. 

And the funny things is, their sense of happiness and fulfillment has nothing to do with how much money they have in their bank account.  It has everything to do with consistently being connected to their spirit by creating time to do just that.  What connects you to your spirit?  How committed are you to creating time in your day to make those things happen?

And there is something else I’ve noticed that they consistently do, something that is definitely unusual, something that is so powerfully simple, yet maddeningly difficult. They create time in their lives by courageously saying “no” a lot more than most people.  Specifically, they say “no” to the things they don’t want to do and the people they don’t want to spend time with. It takes a lot of courage to do that on a consistent basis, at least in my experience.

It takes courage or more accurately love, love of oneself, love of what you’re up to, love of the people you hold dear, so dear that you create quality time to spend with them by saying no to many things when saying yes would be the easier road.   

And the reason they do that is because they really get that by saying yes they would be setting a trap.  And the trap that is set by saying yes to almost everything is that by doing so, we usually end up in the super fun world of being overwhelmed.   And that mode, which appears to be increasingly predominant in our society, leads directly to the silent killer called stress.  Stress kills our spirit and our possibility and sometimes it literally kills us.  It’s hard to create powerful outcomes in your personal relationships, in your career or in your life when you’re stressed out…or in a hospital bed…..or dead.

The really odd thing is being overwhelmed and stressed is a choice, at least that’s how I see it.  And one of the ways we choose into those states is by saying yes when no is the more authentic answer.  It’s a choice, though at times it can certainly feel as if it isn’t.  Saying no is hard because we don’t want to disappoint someone else…..our boss, a client, a friend or perhaps a family member.  So, instead of saying no, we say yes which then catapults us into upset and suffering.  And the reason we suffer is we are out of alignment with our integrity.

It’s our unwillingness to say “no” that has us volunteering on 3 boards when one is more than we can handle, or working 60 hours a week in a salaried position when we get paid for 40 (that equates to 43 days a year working for free, imagine what one could do with that time), or dragging ourselves to a friend/colleague/client’s party when we really want to just be home and spend time with our kids, and the list goes on and on and on. I’m not saying that any of this is wrong. And I’m not saying it’s easy to say no.  God knows I’ve said yes countless times when no would have been the more integral answer.  But the moment I said yes and I really wanted to say no I forfeit the right to bitch or complain about that choice.  To do so throws me into the role of the victim, which has a big cost.  The cost is a significant hit to my energy and my personal power.  Playing that role diminishes me in so many ways, limiting my ability to produce powerful results either personally or professionally.
Being the victim isn’t fun and it certainly isn’t a great way to produce meaningful outcomes.  Are you choosing to play the victim by saying yes when you want to say no?

If so, would you be willing to say “no” more often so that you create time to spend doing the things that feed your spirit? 

Isn’t it about time?