My new favorite word is, NO. I’m making some major changes in my goals, which requires me to stop doing some projects I have been doing. I’ve made this a no-holds-barred time of reflection and redirection.
Saying, “No more,” to some favorite, but unproductive, projects is difficult. But they are slowing me down and sapping time and energy from viable projects.
Now that I’ve made the decision to let go, I’m already feeling lighter. Those things that I thought were so important have actually been weighing me down.
To be sure, not everyone will be happy with my choices, because they will hear me say, “No,” to them. I’ll try to be kind about it. And, “No,” does not mean never. Sometimes old projects come back around with new energy and perspectives.
I’ve had to overcome several myths about saying, “No.”
Here is what I have learned
Saying, “No,” does not mean you failed. But you are flirting with failure when you obstinately refuse to redirect time, energy, and resources to more promising efforts and relationships.
Saying, “No,” will not cost you friends. Saying, “Yes,” too readily and without counting the cost of following through might cause you to over commit. Then, when you fail to deliver, those friends will be disappointed. Don’t over promise and under deliver. Do the opposite: under promise and deliver as promised with a little extra when possible.
Saying, “No,” does not mean you are afraid to try new things or different ideas. I’m learning to say, “Yes,” to fewer opportunities. That allows me to purse and enjoy them more thoroughly. It’s like savoring a gourmet meal instead of gorging on junk food.
Use the Stop, Continue, Start technique of decision making.
STOP: Say, “No,” to the distractions and dead end activities that are not worth the time.
CONTINUE: Renew your commitment to the truly valuable and productive activities and relationships that are meaningful and valuable.
START: Look at your single most important objective for the next 10-12 months (or longer) and start focusing on the steps you must take to realize that goal. Then, begin and persist.
Say, “No,” to the unimportant.
Say, “Yes,” to the meaningful.
And you will be more
I just finished watching Star Wars episodes 4, 5, and 6 again. I had forgotten how strong the message was of how good triumphs over evil. Or, in the case of Star Wars, how the forces of light overcome the forces of darkness.
To me, this holiday season is about light coming into our world to illuminate and encourage us to elevate our expectations of living. This message applies to people of all faiths.
Just as Luke Skywalker believed that a core goodness remained in Darth Vader, I believe in the core goodness of every human. Sadly, some get pulled toward the dark side, lured by their misguided self-serving emotions and ambitions.
The Bible names some of these dark side behaviors: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy (Galatians 5:20-21). We see these rampant in the world. Men using their religious and political ideologies as rallying points to gloss over the real darkness in their hearts.
Then, the Bible lists some of the behaviors of light: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The INLightened and INPowered lead their families, workplaces, and communities based on this spirit of light.
As you consider your leadership place in your family, your workplace, and your community, I encourage you to walk in the light, which means living above the darkness of your selfish ambitions and immediate desires.
INCourage the spirit,
INLiven the heart,
INLighten the mind, and
INLarge the expectations of living in yourself and in others.
And you will be
MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU
Being accountable is the mindset of the successful. The INPowered see the connection between their actions and the consequences of them. Thus, they are able to take the next positive step to either follow up on success or make corrections when results do not meet expectations.
President Harry Truman kept a plaque on his desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here.” He explained that when a decision reached his desk, which he was accountable to make, he made it.
The accountable take care of business
Being accountable is a moment by moment way of life. When it’s up to you, you deliver. If you don’t, you account for your actions and do what you can to get the best possible result.
Being accountable does not mean you are perfect. It acknowledges that you won’t be perfect. None of us is. But it says to those who depend on you that you will do your part to the best of your ability and own the results.
The accountable hang in there
Being INPowered also means following through to the end. When things start to look like they are not going to work out, the accountable stay with the effort instead of bailing, leaving others to mop up and pick up the pieces. Assuring your team that you will be with them through the tough times is a solid trust building trait. Sometimes our greatest personal triumphs show up in our most humiliating failures.
The accountable strive for excellence
The self-assessment that every INPowered person makes is asking, “Did I do my very best? What did I learn that will help me do better next time?”
The accountable are life long learners who continually look for ways to improve themselves. They also coach and mentor others who are learning the lessons of accountability by being encouraging and supportive of their successes and shortcomings.
When you say, “I am accountable,”
You are saying I am
People waste a lot of time because they fail to set priorities. Do you find yourself at the mercy of other people’s lack of planning? Do you ever finish the day and wonder if you just wasted your time and energy?
STOP IT NOW!!!
This often causes indecision and false starts and stops. In the end you feel frustrated. You might even get angry over it and take it out on others.
The root of the problem: not having an idea about what is important and what is not.
A priority is action that must be taken now before you can start the next activity to accomplish your objective.
When medics triage disaster victims, they are making tough decisions about how to best use available resources to save as many lives as possible.
Apply the same logic to the demands on your time and energy. Every moment is a single flicker of time that is non-recoverable. Do not waste your time on “no value added” activities. Even the time you have to spend deciding about an activity is, in essence, wasted.
Being clear, about what is important and valuable to you is at the root of setting priorities in any aspect of your life–at home, at work, in your community.
See this related post: What turns you on?
Here is a hierarchy of factors that might help clarify the priority issue for your situation.
How to decide what’s important
- Obviously, everything else stops when you feel in danger. Survival is always the number one priority. Once you, and the ones you care about, are safe and OK, you can get back to your routines.
- Mission critical issues make up the core of priorities. Your mission is your main focus, the target, the main thing. Your goals define your mission critical activities. Once you know your goal, the step-by-step activities you identify determine your priority: the next activity that must be done to accomplish the ultimate objective and stay on mission. Everything else is off the point. This is true in all aspects of your life: at home, at work, and in your community.
- Preventive action to avert future crises. We often create problems by not taking care of business early. Procrastinating because we have plenty of time usually ends up in a last minute crisis. What could have been taken care of casually ends up becoming a matter of safety and survival. Plan ahead.
- Constructive action that will create a benefit or payoff. I call these the limited time offers that come up and beg us to stop what we are doing to take advantage of them. I always ask if they represent a real benefit for me. If so, I see how they fit into my mission critical structure. I also put recreation and entertainment in this category.
The MAIN THING is to keep the MAIN thing the main THING.
What about parallel or competing priorities?
Sometimes you must choose which priority takes priority. I use the ripple effect factor in such cases. I select the priority that has the greatest potential ripple effect. Consider these questions:
- Which priority would cause the most ripple damage if I delay action?
- Are others waiting on this step to take action on their time sensitive tasks?
- What’s the high risk potential for catastrophic failure if not corrected immediately?
What’s NOT important: everything else
No value added distractions show up in many forms. You will have to decide whether to allow yourself to be redirected off mission, or not.
Learn to set mission critical priorities,
and you will me more
Assertive listening is the active ingredient of dialogue. And dialogue is the secret weapon of peacemakers.
Dialogue is fundamentally different from debate. How? When you dialogue, you seek win-win scenarios. But when you debate, you are locked in win-lose arguments or win some-lose some compromises in which no one is ever completely satisfied.
Conflict resolution is not the same as conflict management
To resolve a conflict, you must correct the issue at the root of the conflict. When you manage conflict, you are just trying to stabilize the situation and keep the conflict from getting worse.
Debate never resolved any conflict. But open dialogue leading to sincere collaboration can. If the goal is resolution, then dialogue is the gateway, and assertive listening is essential.
Compromise is a fall back position
Compromise is not the end game. Compromise is a rest stop where parties can pause for a temporary time out, reflect on progress, and refocus on win-win possibilities.
Compromise is, at best, a form of conflict management. We get locked in to a position and a winner-takes-all mindset until we grow weary of the fight and settle for something less than. We live to continue the fight another day. Resolution is still a ways off.
Assertive listening the key to dialogue
I use the term assertive listening to describe a state of interaction that is more involved than active listening. Active listening is focused on improving your listening acuity. Assertive listening, is focused on helping the speaker to fully express their thoughts, feelings, and intentions.
Here are some key aspects of assertive listening.
- Assertive listeners help their communication partners vocalize their feelings. They help them find the right words that express how they feel. This helps them clarify their feelings.
- Assertive listeners accept what others say as sincere and true for them at the time. They engage with a ,”Yes, and,” mentality. Active listeners accept what others say as authentic. And this moves the conversation forward constructively without disputing opinions. They accept the perceptions and perspectives of others as true and valid.
- Assertive listeners seek to understand the truth according to others by asking for more background and context. This will uncover deeper issues and motivations driving their communication partners. These deep seeded stories might be the underlying issues that have been obscured by time and ongoing conflict. These issues must be confronted to resolve the conflict.
In addition, assertive listeners are open to changing their own mind when compelling information warrants. The fact that we are willing to listen and help others tell their own stories in such depth will create more understanding all around.
Take listening to the next level.
Listen to help others express themselves more clearly and completely.
You will become more