In a recent professional learning session, a teacher asked me, “Do you have any suggestions for maintaining my own wellness while the demands of my job are so high?”
I simply replied, “Learn to say no.”
She immediately blushed because she knew that she had said “yes” to everyone all of the time.
Could I read her mind and know that was true?
But I made an assumption based on the fact that she was a teacher.
Educators often say “yes” to everyone else and, in turn, often say “no” to themselves. (And often “no” to those closest to them.)
And, as I have learned from experience, trying to help everyone all the time will eventually lead to a point where you cannot help anyone at all.
Now, saying “no” to others can be more challenging than it seems.
You also don’t have to do it all the time.
I have learned to set boundaries on my time early in my career.
As a principal, I often left right after school to go to the gym. I was so exhausted from work that doing anything educated related immediately after school was a fool’s errand. My attention was non-existent to work-related issues. I would head to the gym, get in a good workout, have dinner, and then take time to catch up on emails I had to do at night because, at that time in my life, that was what worked best for my schedule.
When asked to do work-related things after school, I often said, “Unfortunately, I have an appointment, so let’s try another time.”
Was I lying?
Not at all.
I had an appointment with myself.
I have learned that the best way to keep your commitments to others is by practicing keeping promises to yourself.
Of course, I wouldn’t always say no; sometimes, it is impossible in some aspects of our work. I get that.
But the more you say “yes” to everything, the more often people ask you to do more things, not less.
Find and do things in your life that bring you energy and can fuel you through the hard stuff.
It is pretty hard to drive a car that is constantly running on empty.