I was a complete and total people pleaser. I agreed to every party, happy hour, bridal shower, workshop, networking event, and family gathering.
I never said no.
I still remember one night at my friend’s house.The energy was high, the drinks were flowing, the food was plentiful. I could hear the techno beats blasting from the speakers. I could hear people laughing and talking excitedly right outside the door. And there I was, in the bathroom, eyes closing, drifting off to sleep, completely exhausted. Just the night before, I was at another friend’s house and had slept on her couch. She was hosting a housewarming party and had insisted I be there. She even changed the date so that I could make it.
The week before, I’d committed to a weekend-long workshop for my job. The one before that, two birthday parties in two different cities. The one before that, a family party and wedding. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but my life was spiralling out of control. It wasn’t mine anymore. Needless to say, I was stuck. I wasn’t accomplishing any of my goals. I had no time, energy, or money. My dreams were drifting farther and farther away from me.
All of these activities – these distractions – in my calendar were keeping me right where I was for years. It’s been a year (or two) that I’ve made more of an effort to get into the driver’s seat. And I wish I could tell you that I’m no longer a people pleaser. But that’s not the case. I still fight the urge, on a regular basis, to say yes to everything – to be there for everyone else.
And it’s been the 3-question rule – that I’ve honed over the last few years – that reminds me that I want to show up for myself, first and foremost. And I want to share this rule with you. This is the 3-question rule: before I agree to do any activity, I have to answer an absolute, resounding “yes” to at least one of the 3 questions below:
Does This Activity Make Me Feel Excited?
While I did everything to make others happy – attending bridal showers, birthday dinners, family picnics, happy hours, late hours in the office – I’d forgotten what it felt like to be excited about something! The butterflies. Accelerated heart rate. Swirling happy-thoughts.
Now, before I even think about saying “yes” or “no” to an invitation, I take inventory of my feelings. Do I feel totally excited right now? Do I feel joy just thinking about this thing? If I have to even question if I’m excited, then I know it’s a no. Because when you’re excited about something, you just know.
This idea is very similar to Derek Sivers’s “hell yeah or no” method. If I don’t want to shout, “Hell yeah!” to an activity, then the answer is simple. It’s a no. No longer will I spend my time and money on “Eh…” and “Sure, why not?” activities; I’ll be doing the things that give me REAL excitement – things that have me shouting, “Hell yeah!”
Does This Activity Help Me Care For Myself?
Self care is an important part of my life; it makes me feel good, rejuvenated, and free! Some activities help me care for myself in vital and much-needed ways, like a massage, a healthy dinner, a gym class, a thorough closet clean-out, or a Disney-movie marathon in pyjamas with friends.
If I can answer this question with an absolute, resounding, “YES” – that this thing will have a huge effect on my self-care, that it will completely refresh and re-energize me – then I do that activity.
Does This Activity Move Me Closer To My Goals?
The things that used to take up all of my time – my job, TV shows, bar hangouts – didn’t set me up for exciting breakthroughs. They didn’t make more fulfilled. They most certainly didn’t lead me closer to my goals and dreams. So now, before I add an event to my Google Calendar, I ask myself whether or not this activity will move me forward in a massive way. Will this event be instrumental in building my business? Getting into a Master’s program? Traveling to a country I’ve always wanted to visit? If the answer’s a “no” or even a “maybe,” then I simply don’t do it. It’s not worth the time or resources.
So that’s my 3-question rule – the rule that keeps me sane, brings me closer to accomplishing my goals, and makes me feel excited about life!
How do you set boundaries in your life? Tell me in the comments below!
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