Permission to say "No": It's not always the bad word it's cracked up to be.

Do you find yourself exhausted, frustrated, with not enough hours in the day? Read on, my friend, because I am letting you off the hook, giving you a hall pass, writing you the excuse of a lifetime!

I had the opportunity to surprise a friend the last time I was in North Carolina. We spent the morning talking about life with a new baby and my crazy move, but as time progressed, she started getting anxious and watching the clock. We had been talking about how hard it is to leave her baby every day to go to work and that the weekends were the only time they really had a chance to be together. Unfortunately, she was going to have to take five hours out of her weekend to go to a baby shower for an acquaintance, and she already felt like she didn’t have enough time with her family. I responded rather quickly, “Don’t go!” She looked at me with tears in her eyes. “I feel like I have to, but she probably won’t even know I am there. “ I pressed on, “Life is too short to do something that doesn’t bring you joy! We get so caught up in worrying about what people think that we spend our lives doing things the world thinks we should do, instead of doing the things we want to do. If it isn’t life-giving to you, or doesn’t bring you joy, don’t do it!” We talked a little longer, and she decided not to go and to drop off her gift another time. She thanked me over and over again for giving her permission to skip the event.

So…here it is! I am hereby giving all of you permission to avoid doing anything that doesn’t bring you joy! Kind of freeing, isn’t it?

Now, before you throw away your mops and order takeout for the week, here are a few things to consider:

Is your heart in the right place? Do I thoroughly enjoy mopping the floors and cleaning bathrooms? No. But I sure am thankful to have a roof over my head and running water, so I will be joyful to have a house to clean. Is it always easy to love my husband when he comes home in a bad mood from a long day at the office? Absolutely not, but I am so thankful to have him by my side to walk with me through thick and thin that I will joyfully greet him with a smile and a hot meal.

What’s motivating you? Are you joining the PTA because you are worried about what people will think of you if you don’t? Are you attending an event because “it’s the right thing to do”? Don’t be a people-pleaser—it’s exhausting! When I was younger, I would say “yes” to everything, and it led to a stressful, miserable life. Not only was I frustrated, but I did everything with a chip on my shoulder. When you are making a decision, think about why you are making that choice and stick with it! Don’t let guilt or peer pressure sway your decision, or you will most likely regret it.

When you say “yes” to something, you are also saying “no” to something else. Saying “yes” means saying “no” to everything else that will be taking place at that same time (unless you have figured out a way to clone yourself. If that is the case, we need to talk). How many times have you said “yes” to something weeks in advance and when the time arrives you feel guilty about everything else you are skipping out on. One way to help you decide whether or not you want to take part in something is to speak out loud what you will be saying “no” to. For example, when you say, “Yes, I will join my coworkers for happy hour after work,” you are also saying, “No, I will not be available to help my child with homework tonight.” I am not saying either one is a better choice, but I think it helps to make the decision if you declare it and the effects out loud. How much guilt would I have been spared from if I had learned this trick earlier!

Now it’s your turn! Start by writing down the things in life that are really important to you—does your calendar reflect that? If sitting down to dinner as a family is a priority, but you spend most of your evenings at the ball field or working late at the office, you may need to change a few things. As you start to make space in your calendar, make sure to fill it with things that are life giving. Not everything in life can be peaches and cream, but we can try our best to eat dessert first!