How one word can redesign your life

We live in a world of options and possibilities. There are so many things we can do, so many events we can attend, so many career options to choose from, people to connect with, and so on. On top of that, there is this societal pressure to never miss a thing. It’s like if you didn’t find out of the newest trend, or gossip, or if you don’t do whatever the cool thing for people to do right now is, you are going to be left behind on a deserted island, and the entire humankind will never want to make contact with you again.
I talk about the hamster race a lot.
The hamster race is this way of living under pressure, in a constant rush, without really stopping to see what you actually want to do. When you are in the hamster race, you forget to take time to be aware of yourself and that which surrounds you. You forget to ask yourself what is it that you do want to pursue and what is not significant for you. Like the mouse that keeps running like crazy, though there is nowhere to go.
So in this hamster-race mindset, we are highly more interested in what we can do more, on top of everything else; we are more interested in what we can take in than what we can leave out. Being busy is now, the new nobility title – saying we have time for nothing and our calendars are jam-packed is the new private jet, mansion with a pool, Lamborghini.
It is tied to our self-worth and we hope that it will grant us the admiration and respect of others.
We run away from doing less and creating space, because not only is that unacceptable by our society and standards; it is quite frankly hard to withstand. We are unaccustomed to our own presence, and to the freedom of simplicity.
I know this game. I was in the hamster race. I almost feel like saying I was the hamster race.
I had a job I was so obsessed with, I had left little to no time to take a breather, to reflect, to be creative.  Outside my job, my calendar was filled with trainings, conferences, coaching sessions, meeting people. It was so hard to just relax and do nothing. A weekend with no plans was as alien to me as an UFO.
What did this lead to? Well, shocker, not to the growth, harmony and happiness I was looking for. It lead to a couple of very unflattering results:
Exhaustion. A state of frenzy and chaos. High levels of anxiety and stress. Back aches, insomnia. Gradual loss of joy. Difficulty connecting with others. A very harsh relationship with myself, filled with high expectations and lacking a friggin’ breather and a healthy dose of cutting slack. Sadness and disappointment with self, because although I was working so hard, I wasn’t really accomplishing anything.
And that is when it hit me – the realization that this was a trap.
Keeping ourselves busy is one of the most carefully engineered ways to numb ourselves and to avoid doing what really matters. Feeling what we really feel. Asking ourselves the really important questions.
Think about the people who are known for their wonderful achievements; one of the things they have in common is their persistence in focusing on their skill, or field of expertise. If Picasso would have been obsessed to live like most of us do today –  saying ”yes” by default to all external pressures and invites, wanting to do it all, would he still have the time to invest in becoming one of the great painters of the world? I wonder how long was his list of things he said NO to. Because NO is the magic word I am talking about.
So I started to do two things:

No. 1: Defining what is really important to me.

And I kept it short and clear. Of course I would be doing other things besides the list, but it is vital to define the essentials. What are the 2-3 things I really want to focus on this year? I do the same for time frames of a month, a week, a day. And I just have to say this again: simplicity is how you get it done. Less is more simply because many times less equals delivered and finalized.

No. 2: Saying No.

I learned something really simple and really powerful from Rich Litvin, an amazing coach:
”Things can only be a Hell Yeah, or a No. There is no Hell Maybe.”
So whatever invitation or activity came up that wasn’t really important for my goals, or didn’t make me happy and excited, was not on my to-do list. If it wasn’t a hell yeah, it was a no.
There is no possible way I can tell you just how much clarity, power and peace of mind saying NO gives you. You can only experience this for yourself. Not only is NO a very undervalued tool for creating the life you want, it is also your best friend when it comes to self-awareness. A tremendous part of knowing who you are is knowing who you are not.
The power of commitment is immeasurable. And commitment many times means being adamant about what you will NOT do.
So if you are on a path of growth – if you want to make something great out of your life, whether it is about ambitious career goals, living a creative life, dedicating yourself to your family – saying mindful NOs has got to be part of your diet.
So I wanna leave you with some food for thought:
What would be possible for you if you did not compromise? If you stopped saying YES to things you don’t really want?
What are the things that are essential to you?
What are the things you know you NEED to say NO to right now?
Love & support for you,
 (Photo by Toa Heftiba)


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