A theme that comes up time and time again with my patients, and myself, is boundaries. Not surprisingly, when we continually open ourselves up to everything that comes our way, our bodies become depleted, our mind becomes stressed, and our spirit becomes burdened by a constant barrage of others’ emotions and requests. This year, rather than focusing purely on what I resolve to do, I am placing emphasis on what I will no longer take part in. Thought of as a ‘Not To-Do List’, this helps guide me away from habits and thought patterns that do not serve me. In order to do this, I listed the activities and emotions that I feel drained by.
I invite you to take an inventory of your day –
What activities do you feel depleted from afterwards?
What thoughts run through your head on repeat?
What thought patterns are of no use to you any more?
Where, in your life, do you feel like you’re ‘losing time’?
The answers to these questions indicate what you would likely be better off not doing. You may find your list to be productivity oriented (e.g. stop checking email constantly, stop pressing snooze), physically focused (e.g. don’t eat sugar, don’t have a second coffee), mentally centered (e.g. stop apologizing for needing space, stop de-prioritizing meditation), or a blend of goals that cross a variety of realms.
This list enabled me to focus on habits that threaten my productivity and mental health. By saying ‘No’ to these things, I enable myself to have the energy and excitement to say ‘Yes!’ to what I’m truly passionate about.
I’m saying ‘No’ to…
Guilt. No, baby, no. Just no. I used to be best friends with guilt. She hitchhiked on my back through university and medical school, reminding me that I wasn’t studying enough, learning enough, focusing enough, seeing friends and family enough. She stuck around through my residency, reminding me I wasn’t working hard enough; I wasn’t taking on enough, or paying back my debt enough. Guilt is the perpetual reminder of all the ways in which I am not enough. In order to finally realize (remember!) that I am whole, I have to just say ‘No’ to guilt.
Over-functioning. Ahhh, over-functioning – guilt’s best friend. As soon as I’d feel guilty, I’d immediately begin over-functioning. Guilty about not working enough? Why not go in early? Or stay late? Guilty about not seeing friends? Say ‘Yes’ when you feel exhausted and go to another social event. Over-functioning led to my ‘big fall’ (as it often does) and the truth is, it wasn’t pretty. No one appreciates a martyr – everyone is far too busy experiencing his or her own martyrdom.
Hating myself. The world is a critical place. I can be criticized on two types of social media before I even leave the house. At the very, very least, we can be our own cheerleader. Whenever possible, I interrupt my critical voice with outrageous gratitude and say THANK-YOU to my body for carrying me through this lifetime, my mind for digesting the constant cyclone of information from my senses, and my soul for always knowing what’s best for me.
Anything that isn’t true for ME. In an ultimate test of boundaries, people will often present invitations and collaborations that sound ‘okay’. Hell, they may even sound pretty good. They might even sound SO good that I think to myself, ‘Somebody should really do this!’ But I’m realizing that that somebody often isn’t me. Unless I feel deeply, “I NEED to do this”, it’s going to be a no from me.
Trying to be fearless. I’m afraid of flying, creatures in the ocean, drowning, clowns, chickens, and sometimes the dark, depending on what kind of movies I’ve recently watched. Not to mention the dark and twisty fears such as losing my family, criticism, failure, poverty, the list could go on and on. My biggest fear used to be the fear that I could not become fearless – that I would be governed by these fears and they would begin to control my decisions. But fear is biological; it reminds us of true danger and keeps us from running into traffic. To be afraid is human – to recognize when your fears are illogical and face them head-on is spiritual.
24/7 Social Media. Social media, if I’m not careful, becomes a dessert of comparison where self-confidence goes to die. If I mindlessly plug in without intention, I lose myself. Instead, I am creating boundaries around when, where, and how long I engage, and ensuring that I create media feeds that feed me.
Inauthentic communication. No, let’s not ‘just do lunch’. Unless we actually really want to in which case, I’ll call you. Or I’ll answer your call. But I will not continually agree that we ‘just MUST’ spend time together each time our circles overlap. When I say ‘Yes’ to something I don’t really want, I’m letting inauthenticity into my world – and inauthenticity is horny teenager. It breeds indiscriminately. In this case, abstinence is the best option. Just. Say. No.
Waiting ‘until’. I’ve often waited – waiting until something is ‘perfect’ to release it, waiting until I look pretty enough to feel confident, waiting until I’ve got enough money to feel safe. But ‘perfection’ and ‘enough’ are lies that prevent us from ever moving forward. I’m no longer holding my happiness hostage, waiting for a moment that may never arrive.
Drinking alcohol. After 8 months of sobriety and experiencing the space that it has opened up for spiritual, physical, and mental wellness to flourish, I am going to continue to be a proud teetotaler. Because nothing says 2017 like a British movement started in the early 19th century.
List-makers unite! What would you put on your ‘Not To-Do List’?
By saying 'No' often, I have the energy & excitement to say 'Yes!' to what I'm truly passionate… Click To Tweet To be afraid is human - to recognize when your fears are illogical and face them head-on is spiritual Click To Tweet 'Perfection' and 'enough' are lies that prevent us from ever moving forward Click To Tweet