Sustainability Means Sometimes Putting Yourself First

Posted by Ann Deaton Share Your Voice

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We don't know for sure how we'll meet a challenge until it comes our way, and sometimes it is the small challenges that show us how far we've come. As anyone who knows me well is aware, I have a tough time saying No when someone else needs something. Putting others first gives me great joy, and it seldom feels that I am sacrificing anything to do so. So today when a friend called and needed to get in my office to retrieve something she'd left, it would have been easy to drop what I was doing and make the trek over there to meet her. 

And I very nearly did just that. But here's the thing----when you coach leaders and teams to discover and commit to what enables them to be sustainable, you have to live that work in your own life too. I know that sustainability gets sacrificed, and burnout made more likely, when we always put ourselves last.

So I had a quandary---put my friend's needs first, and feel good about it? Or put myself first and get done what I needed to do, freeing me up for an evening with friends and family?  Today I decided I got to come first. I won't say I didn't feel a twinge of regret or concern, just that I also felt delighted to get my own work done, stay in alignment with what I encourage clients to do, and set a limit that was the right one for today.

Did I leave my friend hanging? Of course not. Bill Ury's work on the power of a positive "NO" taught me long ago that even when we say No to a specific request, we can still say "Yes" to the relationship. For me that meant saying No to an hour's distraction today, and Yes to stopping by the office tomorrow to pick up what my colleague needs. I think both of us left the phone call feeling pretty good about that solution.

A small thing, I know. Yet not unimportant. Saying No today helps me build that muscle for when No is a harder thing to say---when the other person is more insistent (or less of a friend) or when an alternative solution is not so easy to create. My "No" today was a message to myself that it's okay to come first, at least sometimes. I believe that it's the kind of habit that will ensure I maintain the energy and passion to do the work I do for many years to come, as well as a habit that will strengthen the relationships i treasure. A win-win.

Coaching Questions:

What do you need to say No to because there is a more important Yes (perhaps to yourself or your integrity) that is being called for?

How will saying No contribute to your resilience, joy, and integrity?

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Small Ann Deaton I am a leadership coach, and Managing Partner in Bounce. I love to coach and facilitate with individuals and systems experiencing significant change and growth. The clients I work with, regardless of their age or position, are talented and creative individuals willing to look with fresh eyes at their challenges and opportunities, and to take action based on their discoveries. As a result, they find that they are capable of accomplishing far greater things than they ever imagined. What do you want to accomplish today? Who do you want to be?

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