Posts Tagged ‘Just say No!’

7 Steps to Living with Intention

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How self-aware are you? I consider myself pretty self-aware. It’s a skill that I have been cultivating for years. And I am a seeker, constantly reading and learning and working to be my best. But something I still struggle with is consistently living with intention and having the courage to hear and then take action on my heart’s desires. It means acting on what is authentic and true for me daily while saying no to the rest. This practice involves so much more than self-awareness and it’s just not easy.

But what’s even harder than living with intention, is paying the price for always saying yes. A life of hustling, of just going through the motions or letting others decide your priorities for you, means you risk missing life’s really important stuff. By saying yes to every big, shiny opportunity, we miss the little things–the tiny moments where love lives. One of my favorite quotes says “if you miss love, you miss life” and that’s just not something I am willing to miss anymore.

Now that I am in my amazing 40’s (where you finally start to care a whole lot less about what others thinks of you), I have developed a practice of checking in with my wants daily or even multiple times a day. If we aren’t intentional, it’s so easy to say yes to things that seem fun or positive or like a great opportunity in the moment, only to discover that when it’s time to deliver on that commitment, our heart’s not really into it and we aren’t inspired to follow through. We must remember that there is always a trade off, so every time we say yes to something or someone, we say no to ourselves, our priorities and our goals, which for me involves my family, my health and our joy.

When I was growing up, I was taught to be a person of my word and to always be responsible. In the South, especially for women, we are taught not to disappoint people. Our job is to make everyone around us happy and that typically means saying yes a lot! I was also taught to be a hard-worker. “Don’t be lazy, Tobi”.  By trying to avoid lazy, I created a life as a workaholic, a person addicted to achieving. And whether I consciously realized it or not, in my mind, achievement equaled my worth.

These ideals, teachings, raising, conditioning–whatever you want to call it, caused me to be a person who followed through with my commitments no matter what, even when I over-committed which was often. And even to the detriment of my health, my happiness and my family.

Living with Intention, listening to your intuition or your desires, and following your heart means un-learning these core beliefs that were passed along to you, but that no longer fit. “Being responsible” the way I learned it as a child, has meant doing what pleases other people. It has meant sacrificing my wants and goals at times, particularly in the area of self care. I believed for years that putting myself first was selfish, or at least taking care of me was something that I would get to after I did all the things I promised everyone else. Now I know self care is imperative for me to be and give my best to the world. And there is almost nothing worth forgoing taking care of me first.

I also thought for years that success came with the hustle–that the harder you worked the more successful you would be. Or worse, that to be successful, you HAD to work hard. But I have learned that working harder doesn’t equal success, but it can definitely equal exhaustion. If working hard guaranteed success, all those working 3 jobs to make ends meet, would be. But sadly most are still struggling, and they are definitely tired. However, I don’t like the saying “work smarter, not harder” either–I mean do any of us really think we are working “stupid”? I believe the key is working differently, or really it’s about thinking differently.

The reality is that we get most of our values from our parents and usually our parents are well-meaning, I know mine are. Parents want their children to be successful, to be happy, to be liked. But there comes a time somewhere between your 20’s and your 40’s that you start to consider whether all those beliefs your parents instilled in you, really work for you. And it takes a lot a courage to decide that they don’t work anymore. As I raise a daughter of my own, I am becoming so much more careful about the core beliefs and ideals that I instill in her and about the way I model and talk about success. But I am not perfect, and so I know she will have to decide at some point if the ideas I passed down, work for her. I now know there is more to life than work, being responsible, and pleasing others and I only hope I can model that for her in a way that serves her future self.

I have been moving in the direction of slower and more intentional living for about six or seven years and it is not a straight line from workaholism to living a life of balance and alignment. It is messy and hard. Shiny, exciting opportunities present themselves every day and we have to have the perspective and the tools to know when to say yes and when to say no. I believe we are here to do more than just push ourselves through another day of hustling. Yes there are trade-offs for every commitment, and some of them are really costly. I have learned this the hard way.

To live with intention, we have to get comfortable disappointing people. The old Southern way of making everyone happy just isn’t an option for me anymore, and it’s likely not working for you either. In fact to choose my family and me, I know I am going to disappoint multiple other people every single day, and just like with anything else, the more I practice it, the better I get at it. Yes, I am becoming a “master disappointer”.  And to my surprise, it feels good!

So if you want to live with more intention, here are my top 7 tips to making it happen…

  1. Create Space–If your schedule is jam-packed like mine has always been, you cannot get perspective on what is good for you and what is too big of a trade off. When you are worn down by too many commitments, you are much more likely to say yes in the moment. You have to create some space in your life. Whether that means meditation, prayer, yoga, taking a nap, walking in nature, or bing-watching your favorite Netflix show, slowing down and creating some breathing room will allow you to step back and better evaluate all those shiny opportunities that are being hurled at you every day. And when you’re rested, you’re more likely to say no to a lot of them.
  2. Write it out–I journal every day, sometimes for as long as an hour. It’s how I work through my thoughts, ideas and challenges. Writing clears my mind of worries and fears. It helps me remember what is important. It’s where I count my blessings. It keeps my priorities top of mind and my goals too. Give it a try. I think it makes living with intention much easier.
  3. Have a Waiting Period–Just like in some states where getting a marriage license or buying a weapon requires a waiting period,  there should be a waiting period for saying yes. So often when someone asks you to commit to an event or idea, it’s on the fly, right? You are usually juggling 10 other things at that very moment, so what do you do? You break down and say yes. Waiting to give an answer until you are able to clear your head and focus on the costs and benefits of saying yes, can make all the difference. So let that call go to voicemail or let that email sit in your inbox a day or two and then answer. You will thank yourself later.
  4. If it’s not a Hell Yes! It’s a No–Time is our most precious commodity, but we often treat it recklessly. We only get 24 hours in a day and tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. Do we really want to be so casual with how we spend those valuable hours and moments? Or worse, give them away to people that aren’t on our short list of most important people? I know I don’t. So when considering any commitment, if it is not a HELL YES!, then it is a no. Easy peasy, right? Ok, maybe not easy, but it’s totally worth it.
  5. Give up Excuses–Stop with the excuses already. If you are going to succeed with living intentionally, you have to be confident in just saying no, with a smile of course. Give yourself permission to say no just because. You don’t have to have an elaborate excuse like “I’d love to do dinner with you but my great-aunt’s neighbor’s dog is having it’s seventh birthday and I really have to be there!” Feeling the need to come up with a reason or excuse is just silly and it’s a waste of your time. Have the guts to say “Thank you. I wish I could” and move on. Don’t even say “maybe another time” because then you will have to think up a wild excuse all over again the next time they ask.
  6. Do the Math–Every time you say yes to someone, you are saying no to something else like family time, rest, and your health. Nothing is without a trade-off. So take committing seriously. Do the math and make sure you are willing to give up important moments, goals and your priorities when you say yes.
  7. Dance with Ones that Brought you–There is an old saying, especially in the South that means give your attention to those that have been with you along with way, that have paid their dues, and had your back. For me that means my family and a handful of true friends. There have been many times that I said yes to the world or my industry in search of recognition, money or excitement, or the promise of some big payoff in the future, while saying no to those that mean the most to me. At the end of the day, all that other stuff is fleeting and much of the future payoff never even comes to pass. Other people will forget about you easily, when you aren’t giving them what they want over and over again. And you hope the ones that brought you, are still waiting for you when you return.  So pick them first, and be very selective about committing to the rest. No matter how much you give to the world, it will always want more. And like they say on Project Runway, “One day you’re in and the next day you’re out”. So I choose to be “in” with my family for the long haul. They deserve it.

If you want to learn more about living a slower life, check out some of my favorite life-changing books and resources that have greatly influenced my path…

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Friends, I literally wrote in every margin, dogeared every page and practically underlined and highlighted this entire book. I felt like Shauna was telling my life’s story! (And she’s going to be on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday this month, y’all!) This book helps you see the extremely high cost of giving yourself to your work and the world, including the toll it takes on your health, your joy and your family. For all you Type A, working moms like me who are trying to make your mark on the world, get this book today!

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

I just discovered this book by a blogger I have known about for years and I couldn’t put it down. I read it this week in about 2 days and had quite possibly the biggest Ah-ha moments of my life. It helped me answer some BIG life questions that I have been asking myself for a while. It’s a must read for all you Provers and Hustlers like me, who have tied your worth to your work. I was sad when this one was over, and I am sure I will soon be reading it all over again.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I learned of this amazing book when taking Hilary Rushford’s course, Elegant Excellence (great course by the way!), and I am about to start reading it for the third time (Thanks Hilary!) This book is about the “disciplined pursuit of less”. Greg shares how he worked right through the birth of his son because his boss and the world expected him to, and how he hurt his wife, and ultimately lost the respect of the client he was trying to impress. For all of us who regret putting work first and missing out on the most important parts of life, this book is a must read. And it will help you understand that when you do one thing and do it GREAT, then you can make more money, in less time, with more joy than trying to be all things to all people. Read this book…and then read it again!

Here’s wishing you lots of slow, intentional living and joy!

xo,

 

 

The Joy of Saying No

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There is so much JOY in saying no sometimes, right? But conversely, saying no is often one of the hardest things we do. It is really difficult when good and exciting opportunities present themselves to you and you think “I HAVE to say yes to this”, but you know you really don’t have the bandwidth to take it on. You’ve been there, haven’t you? I know, me too!

And then sometimes even when our gut tells us we don’t want to do something, it’s still hard to say no. We feel guilty or obligated or uncomfortable in these situations, don’t we?

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I have a life philosophy that says “Say no to the good so you can say YES to the great”. But sometimes in the moment you can’t tell the difference. Especially when it’s someone you love or admire or respect that is doing the asking.

I have been working with my team, my family and my therapist (yes, I have one and I think everyone should, but that’s a whole different blog post) to continue to clean out and declutter my life and my to do list. I know this is the only way to find more joy and to love myself more–which are my only 2 goals for this year.

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But even at that, it is SOOOO hard sometimes to get rid of things or say no to new opportunities. Or for me, the hardest is probably NOT launching new ideas and endeavors because I am an idea girl, a visionary, a big thinker, a dreamer. And cutting out all of that brainstorming of new ideas is killing me in the short run. But for my long term goals, simplifying is the only way to true peace and joy.

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So this week, my therapist and I came up with a great analogy or plan and I think is something to which many of you can relate, so I wanted to share it with you here. We were talking about my workaholic tendencies and my chronic over-achiever personality. And trust me, over-achiever sounds like a good thing but that’s not always the case. It can be exhausting and hard on you both mentally and physically. And we noticed that my workload was still out of balance, even with all the pruning I’ve been doing. I have “too much on my plate” as we say.  My therapist said my plate looks like a Thanksgiving feast piled to the top and over-flowing and we got a good laugh at that. But it also gave me a HUGE Ah-ha moment.

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You see, she suggested my “plate” look healthy with 3-5 dollops of work on it TOTAL.  You can imagine a healthy plate of food with a little protein, a little carb, a lot of green veggies–you get the point. And you know what I realized? When my proverbial “plate” is overloaded like the Thanksgiving feast, so is my real plate because my personality type and habits include emotional eating or eating lots of sugar and carbs. I know for many of you stress equals an unhealthy existence for you too.

So for the first time in my life I think I really “got it” that for me an overloaded plate of commitments means weight gain, fatigue, stress, and many other unhealthy things. And this really clicked with me. In fact it sort of scared me.

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So I am back to my mission of saying no to the good and saying yes to my best self. And there is so much JOY in this way of thinking and even more in the results I will be getting including more time for all the things that are most important to me and feeling healthy enough to enjoy those blessings.

Here’s to the JOY of saying no more this year and saying YES to the best version of you!

Joyfully yours,

Tobi Signature

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday’s Secret Sauce: Say No to the Good and Make Room for the Best

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Life is so interesting. We work hard for opportunities, for money, to reach our dreams. We set goals and kill ourselves to reach them. And even when our wants and wishes and dreams do start to happen, it’s not always what we thought it would be. Isn’t it ironic? How many times have you thought to yourself “Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it?” Well I’ve certainly thought that while standing at the crossroads of which amazing things in my life to say “Yes” to and which to say “No” to or maybe not No but “Not Now”.

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You may be thinking, wow, Tobi you got what you wanted and you’re not happy! But it’s not that at all. What I mean is that life has this interesting way of offering you tons of choices and opportunities and many of them are good and a few of them are Great. And you have to be able to tell the difference to craft and create and mold the life you really want. Finding Joy…that is my objective. And for me, finding joy means saying no a lot. 

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One of my all-time favorite quotes and ideas is this…”You have to say No to the Good so you can say YES to the Best!” I have been highly focused on this quote for the last few years. It’s one of my mantras when life presents so many opportunities to me. I can’t say yes to everything. Well I can, but that doesn’t equal the life I want. I’ve tried it and it only caused me to be tired or overwhelmed or overworked or unavailable when the GREAT things happened. And that’s not at all what I was looking for. My family and my health suffered when I said yes to the good.

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So today’s Secret Sauce is this…Say YES to the Best! Let that sink in. Say YES to the GREAT! Say yes to the BEST for you and say no to EVERYTHING else. This sounds simple but it’s really hard. How do you answer these questions? What is right for me? What do I want? What is my Purpose? Which is my path? How can I say No to this?

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And what I often find is that what I thought I wanted turns out to be not exactly what I wanted. It may be close, but it needs a little work. Or it may be completely wrong for me. And that doesn’t mean that I am unhappy with what I get. It’s more like this…I strive for something and work hard to achieve it and I have fun in the process or at least I learn something. And then when I get there, I have to do what I call “Measure and Adjust”. I get to decide if the path I was heading down is the right one or if I need to tweak it a bit or even do a 180 degree turn. And you know what? Nothing is wrong with that. Nothing is wrong with changing your mind when you have more information. Nothing is wrong with wishing you could travel more only to decide you want more time at home. Nothing is wrong with thinking you want a big giant business only to decide a small one fits you best. Nothing is wrong with wanting a big house and then deciding you want less to maintain and less to pay for.

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The exciting part is that we can determine our own destiny. And yes, of course there are some things we have to do for a while until we can say no to them. For example we can’t quit our jobs to start our dream jobs if we have a family to feed and no other source of income. But the best news is these choices are ours to make. And if we are going to be happy we have to go deep inside and see what we really want. And then we can start putting things into place so before long we can say no to everything that isn’t serving us, even that old “bill-paying” job that wasn’t part of our Best, because we have created a new way of living and supporting those we love that is truly right for us. Making these transitions are scary. But we have to have the guts to say NO to the good so we can say YES to the best.

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John F. Kennedy said to those that “much is given, much is required”. And I know he likely meant this from a perspective of service to others and I agree. But I think this is also profound in just thinking about what is right for each of us. When we are given many opportunities and avenues in life, there is a lot required of us to make sure we are making the right choices. There is big responsibility to be true to ourselves and those we love and those we can help. There is the huge job of picking the path that lets us live in our sweet spot and live up to our potential and use our talents and gifts and to find joy and fulfillment. WOW! No pressure, right?

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One of the biggest killers of picking the right path is FOMO. What’s FOMO you ask? It’s “Fear Of Missing Out”. Yep, there it is. That little devil sitting on our shoulder saying “But all your friends will be there” or “You’ve worked so hard for this and now you are going to change your mind” or “What if people think I’m a flake” or any other number of things that run through our heads when we know that we are saying yes to good and fun and fabulous, but it doesn’t align with what we say we really want. It isn’t the BEST. So beware of FOMO. It’s the thing that will keep your dream life just out of reach. Be patient my friends and be diligent. Say No to the good and make room for the BEST!

Here’s to wishing you the Courage in 2016 to make your life exactly what you were meant to be. Here’s to your BEST life.

xo,

Tobi-Signature
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And speaking of the best, sometimes the best for me means living life to the fullest with those I love, like baking with my daughter every chance I get. I gave you a glimpse of this beauty in my blog post yesterday. Yes, sometimes we CAN have our cake and eat it too and today’s recipe is the Best Cake Ever! My Sweet Potato Cake with White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Icing courtesy of Martha Stewart Living Magazine about 15 years ago.

Here’s wishing you a Sweet 2016 with those you love and to Living your Best Life (while eating the BEST cake)!

Sweet Potato Cake with White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Icing

  • 2 pounds (about 3) sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • Unsalted butter, for pans
  • 2 cups cake flour, (not self-rising), plus more for pans
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted macadamia nuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound white chocolate
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat potatoes with 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and place on baking sheet. Bake until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove skin, and mash flesh with a fork into coarse puree.
  2. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees. Butter two 8-by-1 1/2-inch round cake pans, dust with flour, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 cup vegetable oil; beat on medium speed until well combined. Add the cooled sweet potatoes; mix until combined.
  3. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; mix into sweet potato mixture. Mix in vanilla and brandy until combined. Remove batter from mixer; fold in 1 cup macadamia nuts by hand.
  4. Evenly distribute cake batter into prepared pans, and transfer to the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack; cool completely, about 1 1/4 hours.
  5. Meanwhile, chop white chocolate into small pieces; set aside. Bring 1 cup cream to a boil; pour over chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Chill for 30 to 40 minutes.
  6. When chocolate mixture has cooled, pour remaining cup cream into an electric mixer; whip on medium until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Fold whipped cream into chocolate mixture until fully incorporated.
  7. Cut each cake layer in half horizontally, creating four layers. Spread 2/3 cup chocolate frosting on one layer, then stack next layer on top, and frost. Repeat frosting-and-stacking process until each layer is frosted. Spread remaining frosting on sides and top of cake. Arrange remaining 1/2 cup macadamia nuts on top of cake, and serve.

 

Self-care Saturday: Lean and Mean in 2014–My Body, Mind and Business

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Remember when I decided on my “word of the year” a few months back? It is ACTION and in the 10 weeks of 2014 so far, I have been taking consistent action on many things. Too many things actually.

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There is no doubt I am getting some killer results, particularly in my business ventures, but I am guilty of saying “Yes!” to a few too many things this year already. I am not being selective. I am not being disciplined about only choosing what is the BEST for me, but I am letting lots of “good” things slip in too. And as I’ve said before you have to be willing to let go of what is GOOD  for you to focus on what is BEST for you.

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My philosophy for this year is Lean and Mean in 2014. It’s my mantra really. It was a litmus test I created to keep my schedule in check and so far I am loosing the battle. Because being Lean and Mean AND being a “yes man  girl” are not simpatico. But I am determined not to lose the war so it’s time to measure and adjust a bit.

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Yes, it is time to make a few changes. It is time to clean up the schedule a bit. It is time to say NO to some things and cancel a few others. And this is a hard thing for me to do. I like to think I can do anything and also do everything. But again—that’s not lean and mean.

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The only saving grace for me is that when I get my schedule over-booked, when I start missing my family and their important events, when I stop having time for myself, then suddenly things have a way of coming into perspective. It’s like having a crystal ball really. So I just cancelled a fabulous trip of a lifetime in April, to stay home and live the BEST life I can with my family that week instead. It is the right decision. It’s living Lean and Mean. It makes me happy, rested and productive. It’s what I want.

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So what do YOU think? How can taking ACTION and saying NO work together when they almost seem like opposites? Well really they are totally dependent on each other. They are Yin and Yang. You cannot possibly focus on taking action on the things that are most important to you, that align with your intentions, goals and dreams without saying NO to all the things that don’t.

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What about you? As we near the end of the first quarter of this year, as we grade ourselves on how we are doing with our goals and intentions so far in 2014 and as we make a few adjustments so we can stay on the straight and narrow path to all we want to achieve this year, are you saying yes to too much? Are you giving up what you want most, for what you want (or what someone else wants) right now?

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This is the perfect time to “measure and adjust” so you can finish the first quarter lean and mean. And saying no to things that are good for you but aren’t the BEST for you, is the perfect form of self-care.

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Happy Saturday, Friends. Will you get Lean and Mean with your schedule, your business and your life this year? Leave me a comment and let me know how you’re going to make that happen.

Xo,

Tobi Signature