picturing BACK SPACER


I shot this picture because my heart is longing for a little back spacer for my life. Sometimes I wish I could go back in life, give myself some space, and say “no” rather than “yes.”

I’ve always been a “yes” girl. I’m a firm believer that we will regret the things in life that we don’t do much more so than the things in life that we do. I pride myself on being open to new possibilities that present themselves on this path of life. And, yet…

My life just feels too crowded lately. This is not a good thing. It makes me feel irritable, anxious, and impatient. Don’t get me wrong — I want to live a full life, but I don’t want my life to feel full of obligations — things that I feel like I need to get through for the sake of getting through them. I find myself focusing on making it through the day, rather than the moments that make up each day.

Do you ever find yourself pleasantly saying yes to a request, while your heart vehemently screams no, NO, NO! Or maybe your yeses are a little more implicit. You’re running on autopilot and the switch is turned to yes when it perhaps should be turned to no or I’ll think about it.

I think we might feel more comfortable and less guilt when we say no if we remember that every “yes” is a “no” in disguise. When we say yes to one thing, we limit the time, energy, and money that we can spend on another thing. This isn’t a problem if we are saying yes to things that are in line with our core values and desires. This isn’t a problem if we are saying yes to things that energize and delight us. However, if the switch is automatically turned to yes, we are often unconsciously saying no to our deepest dreams and desires simply because we don’t allow ourselves the time and space to pursue them.

Give yourself permission to say “no” or “I’ll think about it” to something that comes up in your life today. And then step back and give yourself space to consider whether this activity will just fill up the moments in your life or will help you to live a full life.

    • Tiffany Hogan
    • February 21st, 2011

    Amazing post Sarah – spoke RIGHT TO ME! Thank you! Let’s support each other as we make mindful decisions.

    • Steve
    • February 21st, 2011

    Great post Sarah. I’m sure you’ll get a lot of people knowing exactly what you’re talking about. In the last year or so I’ve been actively working on saying no to projects that won’t benefit me that much and finishing up or getting out of ones that I’ve previously agreed to. It feels so much better to be able to focus on the few things that are most important and not having other projects suck all of my time and energy away.

    It’s interesting you didn’t mention gender in your post. Although not too scientific, I find that it’s a lot tougher for women to say no to projects than men. I know it is for Lauren.

    Good luck back spacing!

    • Tara
    • February 21st, 2011

    Hmm… I like your perspective on every ‘yes’ being a ‘no’ in disguise. What a great way to think about it. I think it will make me feel better about saying ‘no’! 🙂 Thanks!! 🙂

  1. Lovely picture and wonderful post, Sarah. Saying “no” needs to be a practice because thoughtful conscientious people view it as a bad thing when (as you point out) saying yes when you mean no is even worse. This year I have been mindful to respond to borderline requests with an explanation that I can’t accept jobs that I know I don’t have time necessary to invest to do a great job. I used to be much more afraid of NO but have found that its never as bad as I think it will be. And now I have the backspace photo in my head to remind me where I don’t want to be.

    • Bill
    • February 21st, 2011

    Hi Sarah, My favorite psychologist is Abraham Maslow. Although it’s been a while since I have read him, I remember that he is the psychologist that studied self-esteem and positive growth (as opposed to studying mental illness.) I remember that in one of his passages about growing as a human being, he recommended that whenever we are faced with a decision, we should say “yes” to growth and new experiences. However, he also indicated that we should weigh this decision carefully and feel totally comfortable with it. (I don’t think he was one to encourage us to leave our “comfort zone.”) If we say “no” to every new experience, we will (of course) never grow as a healthy human being. However, we shouldn’t say “yes” to every new experience either; we need to feel comfortable with it.
    For example, when I was learning how to cross country ski, I came to a VERY step hill. I didn’t feel comfortable about that steep hill at all. However, I said to myself, you will never learn if you don’t do it. So, I did it. I crashed horribly at the bottom of the hill, breaking a ski pole in the process.

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