The other day I was speaking to a friend who is also a transformational teacher and leads workshops. She was telling me about a new project she's putting together. As she was excitedly rattling off her multi-tiered strategy, she started naming all of the ways I could and would play a part in her new undertaking. A lover of great ideas, new ventures, spiraling up in the energy of other people's visions, and of course having my ego stroked by someone telling me how fabulous I am and what "an amazing addition" I would be, normally I would have just followed along with her assumption that I would be a part of her new project. However, preparing to launch our Every Choice Matters program on May 1st, I am very much in the conversation about the impact of each and every choice we make. Knowing that each choice either leads closer toward or further away from our goals, and that there is no in between or neutral choices, I surprised my friend and myself by coming right out and clearly saying, "No! I can't spend time building your brand since I have to spend my time building mine!"
When I hung up the phone, I actually felt quite empowered. Although I had always considered myself to be a person who was good at setting boundaries, I had never been so clear and articulate about my commitment to make choices and take actions that were in direct alignment with my goals and dreams. I had never been so able to give up my banner of "the good friend," or person who always shows up in order to say "No" without second-guessing my response.
For most people our inability to say "No!" or set a boundary comes from a shadow. Not wanting to be selfish or full of ourselves, we put others on the top of our to-do lists instead of ourselves. Wanting to prove that we are smart enough, capable enough, have it all together, or can do it all, we say, "Yes," when we want to shout, "No!" The swell of satisfaction we feel when others stroke our ego and tell us how valuable and special we are comes from some shadow of not feeling special enough, worthy enough, or important enough. All of these shadows keep us on the treadmill of feeding off of the validation, approval, and praise of others. We cannot say "No!" or "I can't!" or make choices that are in our highest when we are being driven by our shadows. We cannot make ourselves a priority or put ourselves on the top of our to-do list when we are driven by a shadow.
In order to reach the destination of your dreams, you must make choices that are congruent with your goals. And in order to achieve your greatest goals and deepest heart's desires, you must declare your priorities. What is most important to you at this moment in time? It could be your children, moving, your relationship, taking care of an elderly parent, writing your book, or taking time to relax and regenerate. You need to take time to make a list of your priorities, rank them and then make your choices congruent with that list. When you use your priorities as your true north and commit to making choices that are in alignment with those priorities, your decisions become clear and your choices become simple. You can say "No" or "I can't" and speak your truth without worry or self-doubt. You can step out of the shadows that keep you in your role of the people-pleaser, know-it-all, overachiever, or fixer, hang up your Superman or Wonder Woman cape, and do what is in your highest instead of what is best for others.
When you live life in alignment with your priorities, a very exciting phenomenon happens. Yes, the second-guessing and agitation diminish. Yes, your choices and actions flow more easily. And although those are all exciting, to me they are not the MOST exciting thing. When you live in alignment with your priorities and embrace saying "No!" or "I can't" and setting boundaries as your new best friends, you are making a declaration to the Universe that YOU ARE YOUR PRIORITY! You are claiming that you feel worthy and deserving enough to put yourself on the top of your to-do list. You are affirming that you are no longer so worried about disappointing others because you can no longer tolerate disappointing yourself. And as I have said before, the really cool thing about claiming your worthiness, is that the Universe then aligns and you open up to receiving and manifesting your top priorities!
Transformational Action Steps
(1) Take some time to list out and rank your top five to ten priorities. Look at all the different areas of your life: family, relationship, work, children, exercise, or some particular project.
(2) Create a structure that supports you in thinking before you answer someone's request. Learning to befriend saying, "No" or "I can't" might take time and practice. Create a structure like giving yourself time to think before you answer or telling people, "I will get back to you" so that you can practice going inside and seeing if the request is in alignment with your priorities before you answer.
Kelley Kosow is a Master Integrative Life Coach, CEO & Program Leader of The Ford Institute. She is a leader and teacher of emotional education, shadow work, and personal mastery.
In 2007, Kelley joined The Ford Institute staff. She was hand-picked and personally trained by the late Debbie Ford to lead her programs and continue the legacy of her life-changing work. Known as a “coach’s coach,” Kelley works with individuals, groups and corporations world-wide.
Kelley is a graduate of Brown University and University of Miami Law School. Kelley has been featured in local and national media. Oprah Magazine named Kelley as someone who could “Dream it, Do it.” She has been featured in In Style, People, NY and LA Times, and Conde Nast Traveler.
Kelley's book The Integrity Advantage will be published by Sounds True in November, 2017.