Small changes make big differences.

Tuesdays with MOJO / It's Okay to Say "No"

Marjorie Spitz Rento1 Comment

I used to say, “yes” to every project, task, favor and social engagement.   I’d answer every phone call, email, and request whether important or not.  On my LinkedIn page, I called myself “a mini swat team.”  “A master juggler with the ability to handle multiple projects at once, all with a smile.”  No wonder I woke up one night with knife wrenching chest pain and a permanently damaged esophagus!

I had no idea how to set boundaries.  Didn’t even know what they were or why they were necessary. 

It takes confidence to say “no.”  Confidence and smarts!

By saying, “yes” to everything thrown my way, I was setting a standard for myself that no human could maintain over time.  I let my life control me, and it was getting out of control.  I didn’t know it, of course, until my body yelled it at me.

Our body sends us signals every day.  When we wake up, eat, move, socialize, and sleep.  I just finished a 12-week well-being reset program with a group of 20, and the MOJO Maker™ “listen to your body” was cited by many as the one they learned the most from.  It’s interesting how we can think we are so in tune with our bodies, yet not hear the important messages it sends us every day! 

Ever notice you get terrible indigestion after you eat tacos?  Feel really tired when you have tomato sauce?  Get a boost of energy after eating chicken?  Have a headache when you wake up?  Shallow breathe when you tackle a particular task?   Stand taller when you connect with a particular person?  Can’t sleep when you eat late?   Experience sore joints after a workout?

Positive or negative, these are important messages your body is sending to help you understand what’s working for you, and what’s not.  It’s up to you to listen and take action!

It’s also key to be aware if you are masking any conditions with medications. Constantly popping that Advil or Zantac?  You may want to explore the cause of the issue instead of relying on those aids long term.

One of my dearest friends recently reminded me of a “friend cleansing” phase I went through.  After noticing I was giving much more than receiving in some cases, I started evaluating my relationships and limiting the time I spent with those I didn’t feel valued me.  Instead, I used that time for the people and things that filled me up and nurtured me, and began engaging in self-care. 

On the work front, after my health scare, I was determined to create boundaries that yielded a more productive and efficient me, and to spend less time spinning my wheels.  I did so by taking baby steps, and ultimately made huge strides by embracing the idea of putting a value on my time and skills. 

Whereas I used to stay up to all hours of the evening answering email (even taking pride with the 2:00 a.m. time stamp!), I came to realize that was a precise example of how to publicly demonstrate poor time management.  Instead of looking diligent, I looked unprofessional – what kind of quality work can one accomplish at 2:00 a.m., and then have the ability to be truly present for an 8:00 a.m. meeting that day?  In addition, my clients thought they could contact me any time and receive an instant response, and I fed that notion.  Likely not my best work!

I have a client I adore.  She’s smart, generous, fast paced, no B.S and puts a smile on my face.  When it’s not my day to work with her and she needs me, she will call / text / email all at once.  The old me would drop everything and respond to all three, without fully thinking through the need.  The current, boundary setting me, gently reminds her of my availability and provides an intelligent response as to when I can respond with a thoughtful answer and follows up.  I know she appreciates me more for it.

The point is, setting appropriate boundaries is healthy, and the people around you will respect you for doing so.  It will create space for a clear focused head, improve your ability to set priorities, and lead to successful goal achievement.  

I used to physically feel bad when I said “no.”  I would reconfigure my day out of guilt and “shoulds.”   Those days have changed.  Don't get me wrong; I don’t say “no” to be mean or irresponsible.   Just the opposite – you may get less of me, but you’ll get the best of me when you have boundary-setting me. 

So, how can you start to set some new boundaries for yourself?  Perhaps you need to first discover what areas you want to work on.  Start to pay attention to those signs your body is sending (this app is a good one for that).  

Notice red flags. Let go of fear, “shoulds” and self-doubts.  The first time may feel odd.  A few times later, less so, even empowering, and ultimately, exhilarating.

No one is perfect, especially me, and I sometimes fall back into old “yes” habits.  It will take a lifetime to get the balance right, and I’m ok with that.   I’ll just keep trying.  Join me!


Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™