Just say no
, sang the cast of Grange Hill back in the 1980s. It’s hard to say no, though, and I don’t mean simply in relation to illegal substances as the pop song did. All too often we end up agreeing to things we don’t want to do just because we can’t bring ourselves to utter that two letter word. Or we commit to something that we cannot possibly do to the best of our ability because we’re overstretched. At best we might feel a bit annoyed with ourselves; at worst we let others down or jeopardise their efforts because we’ve said we’ll do what we cannot follow through on. I’m terrible at it: so often I’ve wanted to kick myself for agreeing to things – even putting myself forwarded to take on more and more, be it at work or at play. However I’m learning how important it is to step back and say “No” – I can only truly follow where my heart and soul are leading if I allow that word to help keep me going in the right direction. Without it, I go wandering off on all sorts of tangents. Knowing that I had a busy May lined up, I managed to say no to an invitation the other week, one for the end of the month that I knew would end up being actually quite hard work. Since then – when the person I said no to was totally understanding – “just say no” seems to have snowballed. On Friday, I said no to myself about a self-imposed goal that was stressing me out. Yesterday, I used the variant of “I’m afraid I can’t” and found myself unburdened of another prospective task that was worrying me eight months in advance. Today I said “I can’t commit to anything else” in relation to organising something else. This last use of no left me feeling revived and with sufficient freedom to happily reply to the next email, asking me to follow up another task that I began a while ago. Because, of course, for everything we want to say no to, there’s something else where we want to just say yes.