I consider myself a constant student of life and I’m guessing you are, too. I see a lot of truth in that saying we teach what we most need to learn. Overwhelm and overcommitment have been my steady and dependable teachers, helping me learn how to embrace my own value.
I recently attended a conference called Off the Charts and the amazing host, Nathalie Lussier, used the spiral as a metaphor for business. I was reminded how it applies to so much in life from leadership influence as used by Lisa Williams (and inspired by Alisa Hudson) to spiritual evolution from Oliver Wendell Holmes. I love to view learning from the viewpoint of this shape. Imagining ourselves starting at the base of the spiral, we would continue upward, circling back to the same topics over and over again. Each time we see things from a slightly different vantage point, viewing them through the lens of an elevated, more experienced and refined set of eyes, which reveals more options as we go along.
Earlier in my life, on the lower end on the spiral, when I experienced overwhelm and overcommitment it was because I hadn’t consciously agreed to my commitments and it felt more like I had accumulated these responsibilities as a result of going through the motions and living life by default. From that perspective, life was happening to me instead of occurring as and through me. Not a fun place to be, but I have a hunch you can relate. 🙂
Too many tabs
Fast forward to a little further up the spiral, my life was more consciously designed, but again I met with my old pals, overwhelm and overcommitment. Without realizing it, I had opened too many tabs on the browser window of my life. Just like what happens on your computer, things got sluggish for me. There wasn’t not enough time in the day to fit everything in and since I wasn’t willing to exercise my ability to say ‘no,’ I soon felt exhausted, irritated, and resentful. The things I had so dearly wanted to contribute to and experience had become obligations. This time, from a different perspective on the spiral I could clearly see and understand that even though I had consciously chosen to include commitments that were in alignment with who I was and would make a difference in the world, there was actually a limit to capacity of what I could do, which affected how well I could do any of them and how much I enjoyed them in the process.
Before this point, I didn’t have a problem letting go of things I hadn’t consciously committed to, but I didn’t want to say “no” to anything I cared about. It felt as if I would be excluding things that are very important to me and disappointing people I loved and cared for deeply. But, the beautiful thing about limits is that when you hit the end of them, it can be so uncomfortable that you’re willing to consider an entire new set of possibilities that would have been out of reach before. This time, I found myself willing to take what I would later know as a Sabbatical from “Yes.”
Through the experience, I found out what was draining my energy and what was refueling me. I let go of what was draining me and found myself shifting the time I had spent DOing them into BEing activities that nurtured my soul. I felt softer and more present. I recognized more about what I preferred and what fueled me. I reconnected with my inner wisdom and relaxed more knowing that the world wasn’t going to fall apart if I took more time for myself. When I started listening more closely, my body would reveal very clearly when my most authentic answer was to say ‘no’ to an opportunity or a request. Following these answers wasn’t pleasant at first, but with practice and experimentation, I could tell that I liked the results of staying in alignment with this ‘no’ far better than handing out counterfeit yeses and dealing with the fallout that inevitably arrived.
Jump ahead again to another cluster of events that had me meeting up with my ole’ pal overwhelm. This time, everything was consciously committed to and I knew I was within my bandwith, but the added pressure of a reduction in our household income made me feel stretched beyond my capabilities to respond. I had fewer tabs open on my browser of life, but each of them were requiring lots more energy to stay open. I had never noticed before how much additional time, thought and preparation is required when financial resources are limited. Within four weeks, we closed on the sale of our rental house, planned a no-budget wedding for my daughter, prepared for an out of state speaking opportunity, finished the manuscript and layout for my book and traveled to meet a commitment I had made the previous year without having any financial means to make any of it happen. We were surrounded by generous friends willing to help and barter and we managed to live through it all without letting anyone down, but ourselves.
Afterward, I experienced a huge shift. When I arrived home, I decided I was worth more than this kind of hustle with overwhelm. I had met my commitments to everyone, but did it in survival mode and at the expense of myself and my family, rather than enjoying the experiences. I recognized that I wanted to feel valued for my contributions and that I wanted to be making them where it meant the most to me and those involved and I didn’t want it to require any self sacrifice on my part. I wanted to lean into life and not feel pulled under by the tow, but hop on top of a surfboard and ride those waves like a boss, grinning ear to ear. 🙂
Since then, I’ve noticed a fine tuning of my body’s ‘no’ signal. This body response is energetically different than the fearful ‘no’ that shows up in response to opportunities outside my comfort zone that require me to be more and more visible. I’ve come to know it more accurately as my sacred ‘no.’ At one point, it became apparent that it would be best for me to release a couple of clients so that I could invest more time with my family and in making my dreams come true. It was challenging, because I loved both clients and wanted to see their missions grow and get out further into the world. My sacred ‘no’ was there when I second guessed myself, and it assured me that this choice was in the highest. It’s solid and I can feel it rising inside of me as I type these words. It feels like an internal boundary and when I bump a request or opportunity up against it that’s no longer compatible, it stands strong, doesn’t yield and provides a clear ‘no’ to me as guidance.
When I’m faced with requests that I would have responded to in the past with a counterfeit yes, there’s my sacred ‘no’ standing there saying, well, ‘no, you’re not going to do that.’ The wiggling and contorting I would have tried in the past to override what I was sensing so that I could respond with a yes, just seems to relax up against the calm certainty of the sacred ‘no.’
The week after I released that second client felt miraculous and liberating. I hadn’t realized how much mental space was reserved for their mission in my mind and how much energy those tabs were drawing. With those tabs closed, it was as if new floor to ceiling windows had been installed in the browser of my mind and I could look out onto the world and see new possibilities. I’m sure they existed before, but weren’t yet visible to me because I had so many things processing with those extra tabs open.
What about you?
Do you have too many tabs open? Take a moment to check in with your own body signals. If your sacred ‘no’ were rising up to stand by your side, what would it be guiding you to say ‘no’ to?
What if you decided to close those tabs that are no longer serving you?
Come and take a look at the view from here, it’s spectacular!
Tell me what you’re seeing over on Facebook >.
With love and appreciation,
P.S. If you’re not sure what’s no longer serving you or what you’ve said “yes” to that’s really draining your energy, then you can find out exactly using the Energy Matrix (it’s eye opening to see it all there at the same time). <3 to you!