It’s December. And we’re being pulled into the vortex of time. The maelstrom is all around us! Can you feel it?
Perhaps it’s just me. But after Halloween, the year just seems to accelerate. After Thanksgiving, the days move forward at warp speed. The commitments and the demands and the lists and the expectations and the projects that need to be done – have to get done – before the end of the year seem to mount logarithmically. And then there are the card lists and the gift lists and the shopping and the holiday parties… .
It’s enough to make one want to jump ship… .
What to do?
The question is what not to do.
The way out of the vortex – the only way – is the simplest and the hardest thing of all (at least it is for me). The only way out is to say “no.”
Saying “no” is not news and it’s not rocket science. All of the leadership and success books tell us that it is fundamental to our sanity and, paradoxically, a key to achieving our goals.
One of the first articles in this month’s Success Magazine is entitled Actively Do Nothing. “People could improve their mental and physical health as well as their relationships by carving out a portion of their day to do nothing,” the article states.
Jack Canfield in his book The Success Principals recommends creating a “stop-doing”or “don’t do” list. Ann and I met a woman at the gym a few months ago. We invited her to one of our Denali slide show presentations. Her response: “Thank you. But I ‘don’t do’ evening commitments.” We were really impressed by that.
So why is saying “no” so hard? Certainly, we’re conditioned from very early on that “no” is not the right answer. As time goes on, we also begin to layer on our own assumptions – whether true or not – about what others expect of us. Sometimes, I suspect, saying “yes” is just a habit. (I said yes to a commitment recently without even stopping to realize I would be out of the country during the time I had committed!) And for me, there is a healthy dose of narcissistic self-importance that loves to believe that somehow my presence is essential or that I am the only one who can do something.
So as the vortex swirls, I’m working on saying “no” more often.
I’ve started by asking myself whether a project or an invitation is one that I “should” do or accept rather than one I “want” to do or accept. I’m working at eliminating the “shoulds.”
Saying no to the non-essential allows us to be more fully present to what is most important. By doing less, we can pay closer attention to what is essential. And as The Little Prince reminds us, “what is essential is invisible to the eye.” It takes time to see.
The Carmelite monk William McNamara writes,
“We are not really practical, and we shall get nowhere, we shall never find life, life will escape us, unless we learn not to always be bustling about – unless we learn to be still, to let things happen around us, to wait, listen, receive, contemplate.”
“One final word on the subject of time,” McNamara says:
“I suggest that we stop doing half the work that presently consumes us. Then let us attend to the remaining half wholeheartedly, with contemplative vision and creative love. I stake the authenticity of our lives and the effectiveness of our work on this radical shift.”
I described the vortex to a friend today as a giant flushing toilet bowl.
Not a great place to end up.
“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
“It is the time you have devoted to your rose that makes your rose so important.”
“It is the time I have devoted to my rose –” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it.”