E-Notes: On Saying No, Wanting to Fix a Broken System, and Grounding Yourself

When was the last time you took time to really be proud of yourself and what you’ve accomplished recently? Maybe you’ve been training for a race and it turned out great. Or maybe you’ve successfully navigated the first year of parenthood…or planned a wedding or major event and it turned out perfectly. Maybe you’ve written a grant that was awarded or earned a certification or had a good evaluation at work. Maybe the garden is planted, the lawn is mowed, and the bird feeder is filled. Good for you! Woohoo! For some of you, the past couple weeks have brought hardship, loss, or illness. Be proud that you’re doing your best and take the time you need to rest and heal. Whatever your recent accomplishments, I hope you will take a moment to feel proud of your effort.

Saying No

First up this week, I want to share some key points from Shane Parrish’s blog post, “The Focus to Say No” which made me stop and think. And anything that makes me do that, gets shared with you, Dear Reader!

The difference between average results and exceptional ones is what you avoid. Saying no to mediocre opportunities is easy. Saying no to good opportunities is hard.

We all have the same number of hours in a week. What separates people is how they use them.

You can do anything but you can’t do everything.

Shane Parrish, Farnam Street blog

You should be very selective with what you say yes to. In fact, Shane argues, you should always have a reason to say yes. He suggests that every time you agree to something, you should actually say the words “I am choosing to say yes because…” so you have to articulate the honest reason. Doing this will help you recognize when you should be saying no.

Shane’s idea may remind my fellow Derek Sivers fans of his famous rule, “If you’re not saying ‘HELL YEAH!’ about something, say no.” (He’s now expanded the idea into a book too.)

Or Steve Jobs, who said, “Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

The ultimate goal is to become more discerning so that you have more time to do something amazing! As Shane says,

“Only a master will say no to good opportunities. If you don’t say no to good opportunities, you’ll never have the time to pursue great opportunities.”

A black chalkboard with the words Yes and No written on it. The word Yes is crossed out.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Wanting to Fix a Broken System

Charlie Warzel and his wife, Anne Helen Petersen, recently wrote the book, Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working from Home. With the release of the book, articles from and interviews with Charlie came across my radar but I only caught up with them in the past week. I wanted to share a few points of interest.

First, let me admit that I have not read the book and I may not get to it…at least for a while. Sorry! I have a large stack already on my bookcase. Saying no includes to books too.

In one of his articles titled, “What If People Don’t Want a Career?,” Charlie explored ideas around work, hustle culture, poor management, and the perspective of being an anticareerist that are worth checking out. He also dug into a Fortune article that I refuse to even link to because it represented so much that I disagree with. Grr!

Overall, what resonated with him through his book research and latest journalistic forays was that workers now may have a little leverage and they are asking important questions about how a career or work interacts with sense of self and worthiness.

That part I 100% understand! As someone who left her position as a vice president to move to her favorite town and live her happiest life, I made a HUGE shift in my priorities. My career may never be the same because of this decision. (Or maybe it’ll turn out to be even better.) Even today, I was pinching myself that it’s all real. That we took the leap and that we get to live in our happy place every day. I don’t think I’d describe myself as anticareerist, but living here is my top priority right now and my job, while still very important to me, must fit around that.

In his article, Charlie notes,

When you talk to people who reject the modern notion of a career, many of them say the same thing: They crave more balance, less precarity, and better pay. They also, crucially, want to work. But they want to work for places that see them as three-dimensional human beings and that actually invest in them and their futures without expecting workers to sacrifice everything. They want to be a part of organizations that recognize that meaningful and collaborative work can bring dignity and create value but that work is by no means the only way to cultivate satisfaction and self-worth.

Charlie Warzel, “What If People Don’t Want a Career?”

For more from Charlie, HR Brew’s (Morning Brew’s HR newsletter) interview with him titled, “The Way We Work Isn’t Working – Author Charlie Warzel Blames Middle Management” is worth reading. I think his description of middle managers being promoted without any supervisory training or experience will sound familiar to some of you!

Grounding Yourself

The last topic for this week is about grounding techniques. No, not the type of grounding related to walking in the dirt or grass barefoot to change the electric charge of your body. Or ground living (Tony Riddle is amazing!) which Jason and I have even partly embraced.

Grounding techniques refer to ways to refocus your attention, calm yourself, and relieve stress and anxiety. I’m going to share a few of my favorites but there are many more. Find one that works for you and use it the next time you feel a wave of overwhelm building or you’re having an anxious thought loop.

5-4-3-2-1 is one of my favorite grounding techniques and it works wonders if you’re experiencing a negative thought loop. I also use it for discomfort on a run. It involves paying attention to each of your senses in a particular order:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can feel
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

This exercise helps you refocus your mind to the present and it helps you reset your thoughts. If you forget the order that’s okay. I try to remember it as taste being the hardest to have multiples of without putting something in your mouth. (I usually only taste my stress breath when I’m doing this technique. Ha!) Smell also can be hard to get more than two smells if you aren’t moving but you can see, feel, and hear multiple things even if you are seated in one spot. If you spent this much time thinking about the order though, I bet you’ll have reset your thoughts a little already.

54321 isn’t as easy to do when you’re in bed, unable to sleep because the hamsters are sprinting full tilt on the wheel in your brain. That’s where Box Breathing or Square Breathing comes in. It can help you calm down, relieve stress, and ease anxiety.

A white square canvas being held by a left hand at the bottom and a right hand to the right over a wooden background.
Photo by Angela Roma on Pexels.com

As you are doing the exercise, imagine drawing a box with your breath or your finger. Repeat this for 4 to 5 squares and see how much better you feel.

  1. Breathe In for 4 counts
  2. Hold (air in) for 4 counts
  3. Breathe Out for 4 counts
  4. Hold (air out) for 4 counts

The final strategy I use all of the time, including every week while I write this blog, is to listen to a song on repeat. I typically use a song loop for focus, comfort, or support and I have different songs for each. It is also one of my top strategies for writer’s block that I picked up when writing my dissertation.

Do you have any grounding techniques that you use regularly? What thoughts are you having about your career lately? Are you someone who struggles with saying no? What would help you in any of the areas we touched on this week? Let me know in the comments or get in touch.

I appreciate you sticking with me to the end of today’s post. Happy Wednesday!

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