With so many demands on our time and energy, coupled with obligations and family commitments, it’s not always easy to find quality time doing what we would otherwise like to do. If you find yourself in complete neglect of your own needs and desires, according to her new book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform your life one month at a time, Cheryl Richardson says it’s time to create an Absolute No list. In this exclusive extract, Richardson offers some practical advice.
Think about the things you no longer do, or would like to stop doing, in order to protect your precious energy and honour your values. Maybe you’re tired of being responsible for cooking every meal, and you’re ready to allow your teenagers to learn a new skill. Maybe you’d like to enjoy a Sunday afternoon to yourself rather than attend a weekly dinner with your extended family. Or maybe you’re no longer willing to have lunch with colleagues who pick your brain.
The concept of creating a list of absolute noes is important. It serves as a potent reminder of what you no longer do so that you can protect your quality of life. It can be eye-opening and helpful to read about what others consider an absolute no, especially if you have trouble creating your own list. That’s why I asked several friends to share their examples. As you read through them, notice how they make you feel, and put a check mark next to the ones that you’d like to adopt.
One small “no” can open your mind to new possibilities. Trading services with others can tackle financial hurdles. Or raising your standards in one area of your life can increase your feeling of deservedness. One of the most common reactions from women after hearing the above mentioned examples are: “A lot of these seem like they belong to someone with a sense of entitlement, and I couldn’t possibly be that self-important.” While I remember feeling the same way early in my journey, I can assure you that, if anything, most of the good men and women who show up for coaching or at my speaking engagements need to develop a stronger sense of entitlement.
Starting with your own list is an important step in learning about where you fall on the self-care spectrum. Let’s get going…
Extreme Self-Care Challenge: Create Your Own Absolute No List
The first thing you’ll want to do is spend a week looking for those activities you no longer do, no longer want to do, or would like to give up at some point in the future. In addition, pay attention to the sources of frustration in your life—the same old arguments, the typical commitments you make that backfire, or the situations that always leave you feeling drained or resentful. If you’re tired of volunteering your services to makeshift organisations that don’t have their acts together, for instance, this is important information to know when developing your Absolute No list. You’ll want to add something like “I no longer volunteer for any organisation that doesn’t have a concrete vision, plan and sufficient staffing” to your Absolute No list.
When looking for absolute noes, pay close attention to how you feel in your body. Look for those times when you feel tension in your neck or shoulders, tightness in your arms, aching in your head, or butterflies in your stomach. For example, if you feel edgy and short-tempered every time tax season rolls around because of the work involved in preparing your returns, it may be time to stop doing them. You’ll want to add this to your list: “I no longer prepare my own taxes. I pay someone else to do it.”
Next, start a file in your computer or develop a handwritten list in your notebook that captures what you’ve learned during the first week. Then, post your list in a place where you’ll see it every day for at least the next month, and be sure to take five to ten minutes each day to read through it. As you do, imagine installing these new rules into your brain like a self-care software upgrade—a programme that will help you run your life more efficiently and effectively. The goal is to develop an Absolute No list that, over time, makes you feel safe, protected, taken care of, and free to be your best self.
Compiled by Maria Dominguez from ‘The Art of Extreme Self-Care’ is published by Hay House