“No” is Easy When You Know Your “Yes”

Do you have trouble saying “no” to things? Me too. My natural tendency is to feel like I don’t want to disappoint anyone, so when I would say “no” to a request, I would always end up feeling guilty and yet relieved at the same time. This lasted for years.

I remember the first time I really said a firm “no” to helping someone, and felt free because of it: I was in my mid 20s!

As a graduate student, my study load was quite heavy. A fellow student asked if I could read over his paper to edit it and give feedback. Without thinking I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have time for that.” It just popped out of my mouth—I was shocked that I had said no so easily.

Later, I marveled at the freedom I had found in saying “no” – but what I realized was that I could say “no” easily, because I had already said “yes.” Continue Reading

Stop Saying You Want the Goal and Start Saying You Want the Process

I had a recent moment of self-revelation brought on by my hair, of all things.

Have you ever found yourself wanting something, but not willing to go through what it takes to have it?

Wanting to be at the top of your field, but not willing to put in the long years of study to get there?

Wanting to have great arms/ a flat stomach/ thinner thighs, but not willing to work out and cut back on sugar?

Wanting to earn a great salary but not willing to spend decades of your life building a career?

I realized that I always want my hair to look great (who doesn’t? I guess) – but not just generically great. Great like perfectly done great. Not the trendy “messy bun” look, or “beach waves” which can be fudged with a bit of spray. No, I consistently want my hair to look completely perfect, like I’m on a movie set.

But the process of actually doing my hair perfectly every day? No way. Washing it, spending lots of money on hair products, the time it takes to blow-dry and set and on and on… I don’t want the process. I just want the end result! I want the benefits without the cost. Continue Reading

Margin in My Mornings

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I am not a morning person, and likely never will be. If I have to rush around in the mornings, I will be unhappy for the rest of the day. Both my body and my mind need time to wake up, gradually and quietly.

If I am rushed in the morning, my day is pretty much ruined. I feel stressed the whole day, as though there’s an itchy tag scratching at my soul. No matter how much I try to adjust, there’s something bothering me.

In an effort to be less stressed, I’ve started to try and build more margin into my day. Here are my morning practices: Continue Reading

Do We Always Need to “Build Character”?

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I had surprising conversation with a friend recently. She asked me about life consulting, and I was telling her how I might advise a mother who is overwhelmed with family duties but wanting to pursue a hobby to get some help with things she didn’t love (laundry, cooking, etc.) in order to have a bit more time for what she did love – (painting, music, etc.).

My friend, a mother of grown children, burst out: “but that’s not character building!”

I quickly replied that leaving her family and running away to Argentina was not character building, but devoting 5 fewer hours a week to a household chore could hardly be seen as a life of vice. After some thought, she agreed.

This conversation left me thinking. As Christians, we are raised to believe (rightly) in the importance of character. We are taught to practice virtue – including the virtue of perseverance in tasks we may not like. Self-sacrifice and self-control form the basis of a life of service.

But sometimes it seems like Christians feel that they always ought to choose the more difficult task, because “building character” is so important. So is there no room for doing what comes easily to us?

How do we walk the line between doing what is easy because we love it and/or it comes naturally to us, and doing what is difficult because it builds our character? Continue Reading