What If Your Greatest Strength Is Also Your Weakness?

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I can’t find time to write. My book plods along at a snails pace. It frustrates me every day that I can’t seem to find a solid chunk of writing time. Even when I plan to sit at my desk and not move until I have produced at least 2000 words, the opportunity never seems to make itself available to me. When there is seemingly nothing on my plate or calendar, writing time still often gets left by the wayside.

And I finally know why.

It’s the meeting I agreed to with one of my students. It’s the first 50 pages of a book a friend is writing that I said I’d be happy to give feedback on. It’s the charity event I hosted at my house, the birds that need feeding and the posters that need to be tacked up in schools and cafes to help my daughter with her literary magazine. It’s phone calls to my mother, sister and three children to touch base and make sure everything is good with them. Someone wants a recommendation for something. Someone else wants to talk through a pressing decision. Friends want to get together because that’s what friends do.

And I am out of time to write.

Someone I was lamenting my lack of time to told me that I need to learn the word “no.” The problem is that I’m not a “no” person. I’m a “yes” person – not the kind that agrees with everything out of weakness or fear – but the kind that says yes in order to help. Every day I get up and work on Karmic, a movement dedicated to inspiring each person to do at least one good deed a day in order to better themselves and the society in which they live. I imagine the ripple effect these acts of kindness will have as they radiate from person to person, community to community, city to city and onward. I think about the idea of kindfulness, which I frequently lecture on and in doing so, the words “yes” or “of course” or “what time and where do you want to meet” invariably come out of my mouth.

But I have to admit – or more correctly, confess – that my “yes” tendencies are not always best for me and the dreams I want to achieve. I know that I need to make my own work and needs a priority even if it doesn’t seem that way. I thought that perhaps I was avoiding writing – throwing up my own road blocks and reasons not to finish my book because, well, it’s simply easier not to find the time, the discipline or the words.

The idea of saying “no” was something I recently encountered when reaching out to two friends who both told me “no” because they were too busy with their own projects. As they were friends, their “no’s” were delivered with kindness, explanation and a rain-check. I felt admiration for their ability to deliver such an sensible kind of “no.” This wasn’t about rejection, I realized. It was self-protection. It was all very counter-intuitive but nonetheless, I was happy that they told me “no.” I was happy for them and their focused pursuits.

I am, however, a writer and therefore I need to write. I have things to say and share that I am compelled to get out of me and into the world for whoever wants to read or hear. Lately, saying “no,” for me has become more an act of bravery than a denial. It’s brave for me to put myself first based on all I try to stand for in terms of serving others. Yet, in order to help others, you must be the first person you help. In the spirit of the saying, feel good to do good and do good to feel good, I know I need to balance the kindness or “yes’s” I give myself, with those I give to others. It’s not easy being a “yes” person when you know that “no” is often the better answer for your own well-being.

I’ve decided to look on the bright side of “no.” Saying no to something means saying, “yes” to something else. “No” can mean you now have more free time. “No” can also mean ‘not now’. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing concept.

When you shine a positive light on the word “no” you will often find yourself saying “yes” to you – something many of us don’t do enough. Agree? Yes. Yes I do.

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