A One Word Answer

I was driving home from the North Shore last week, listening to Rachel Hollis’ Girl, Stop Apologizing in my car. About halfway through the book (great read/listen, by the way), she was talking about the need to focus on one goal at a time.

We’ve talked in the past on how “energy flows where attention goes” and all the good stuff. This is essentially what Hollis is saying, too. When we focus our energy on one thing, then all of our attention goes into that one thing. In accomplishing goals in life and business, it is indeed a magic key.

Listening to Rachel (I use just her first name like we’re friends, but sadly, I’ve never met her) it reminds me of an article I read a while back by Warren Buffett, you know, the wealthiest man in our country. Yeah, so when he talks, I tend to listen because I’m a huge believer in watching excellence in action so the rest of us can be smart and copy it. So, Warren Buffett talks about the power of saying no. For him, the power of saying no just means he does what aligns with his goals and objectives and values and does nothing else. He recommends this for all of us, not just the multi-bazillionaires (I’m pretty sure I just made that word up).

There is a process I have taken to lead my clients through, that Buffet uses with the people he mentors, and it goes like this: list your top 25 goals (he focuses on business goals, but we can use the process with anything in life, including life). Write down, physically on a piece of paper, your top 25 goals. For myself, I did this process with my life in general. I have things on my list like, “be mindful of flexibility to adapt to mine and Christian’s changing relationship”. I realize that might sound odd to some, but my Son is my one and only, he’s 20 going on the rest of his life, and as his Mom I need to have my head on straight with the fact that our relationship is changing a lot as he enters adulthood and I need to be on track with this. It’s super important for me to maintain the closeness he and I have always had, and to do so by being respectful to the fact that he is trying to figure out what kind of life he wants to create for himself, and I need to sit back and shut up more than I used to when he was in Jr High. So, I have personal goals around our relationship. Also, I have goals around my relationship with my husband and my step-kids and my health, finances, having a positive impact in my community, etc. So, lots of different things make the goals list. Twenty-five of them. Now, after you have your 25, take it down to between five to seven (Mr. Buffett says five, but he’s just focusing on one thing, business, and most of us are women and our lives don’t work the same, so give yourself two more if you want them). Got your list of five to seven? Good. Now, do nothing but those five to seven. Yes, you heard me. Nothing. But. Those. Five to seven.

Here is the theory. We get too busy. We distract ourselves with all we want and think we should be doing, and in doing so, miss the mark on what is truly important to us in our lives. We end up super busy, and totally empty inside. If I had a buck for every person I’ve seen in my office with what looks and sounds like a great life, is completely unfulfilled by it, I’d be a very wealthy woman. Like, Mr. Buffett would want to know me!

When we are busy doing everything, we’re really not doing anything. The stuff that gives our lives real meaning falls into the middle of the heap with all the other crap and gets buried. Warren Buffett tells us that by focusing on only what drives us the most, that is when we have time for other things like serving our community, writing, reading, being in public service, etc.

Let’s do less, and in the process, actually, experience more. More meaning, more impact, more depth, more connection, more joy, more of what makes life worth living.

I was sitting down to accountability coffee with my accountability partner (yes, I have one of those) discussing this very subject. We’re all torn so many different directions. She and I are both self-employed, married, kids, homes (or two), love to travel, love to spend time with our friends, want to be involved in our community and make the world a better place, need to make money, etc. You get it, I know you do because your life is a lot of the same. You may not be self-employed, or perhaps don’t need to make money to support your household, or maybe you don’t have kids, but I know you just do more of other things. Never for a moment are you sitting on your duff eating bonbons, while the maid vacuums around you and your man slave feed you peeled grapes, I’m quite sure of it. And, that scenario may have been uncomfortably detailed. Nevertheless, focus helps us get the best kind of more from our lives because it allows us to give the best kind of more. We are giving more of our true selves to the things that really matter, and that, in the end, is what really matters.

My accountability friend asked the question, “So, what are you really good at saying no to?”. I paused. Nothing – I kind of suck at saying no. Her too. We laughed, and as we laughed, we came up with a new form of the question, “So what am I willing to say no to first?”, then second, third, and so on. I realize most of us can’t quit cold turkey without feeling bad, so, let’s take this one step at a time and break it down.

  1. Do the 25 goals list

  2. Narrow it down to five to seven of your most important life goals

  3. If you only get to focus on those five to seven, everything else goes, pick the first thing

  4. Break up with the first thing

  5. Set a course to break up with, and do break up with, all the other things that don’t align with your top five to seven

  6. Repeat number five over until you’re life is focused completely on your five to seven

Good job!

Seriously, I know many of you are having panic attacks, or worse, just stopped reading this halfway through because you think I’ve lost my mind, but for those of you who are hanging in there with me, we can do this! To be honest, we must do this. For ourselves. Because you deserve your best life. The only way to get your best life is to choose it for yourself. Not because someone else gave you permission, or said you should, but because you want it for yourself, and you are worthy of it.

So, let’s create it.

No is a one-word answer. And, it is the only answer that you need. Too often we feel like we need to justify setting boundaries and spending our time and attention on what is important to us. You don’t. I repeat: You do not need to justify saying no to the things that do not support your goals!

We can do this together.

Have an accountability partner to help you. It can be someone who knows you, will love you through the tough breakups, and celebrate the ones you’ve wanted to get rid of for ages anyway and just needed an excuse. Choose a person who will support you in your pursuit of a great, totally aligned authentic life, because she wants one too. Support each other. Choose the person who understands what’s truly meaningful to you and wants you to love every day of it. Do not choose the person who is going to make you feel guilty for quitting a committee, or voluntold position because they really need you, or what-the-heck-ever guilt-driven people say to get other people to feel guilty. Not that person.

Choose a person who loves their life, or at least is working towards it, just like you are.

Together we can make an incredible impact on the life that matters most, our own! In doing so, we truly become better versions of ourselves for everyone and everything else. Even in the saying no, others win. When we are living our best lives, completely clear, totally focused and aligned, we are happy and fulfilled. When we’re happy and fulfilled, we attract happier and fulfilled, and show others they can do it too.

One powerful word said with complete clarity.

Beautiful. Now, go make your list.

Blessings Galore, Anne

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