Sometimes NO is the Right Answer

Enjoy the little things.

Arnie rushed into my office, suit jacket flapping behind him. As he sat down delivering a heavy sigh my client complained of schedule overload. I giggled reminding him that he was retired. In my mind, any calendar overload was self-inflicted. Shrugging his shoulders a serious look crossed his face as he checked an alert from his phone. Rolling his eyes he muttered something about a golf game.

Getting down to business, I soon understood Arnie’s problem. He developed a habit of accepting every social invitation that came along. Although this might not sound like much of a problem, it can lead to a dysfunctional lifestyle. It is sometimes dubbed the “cannot say no syndrome.” I have coached many individuals who fall into this category.

Delving deeper into why the “no” word was missing from Arnie’s vocabulary he admitted there were many times he would rather stay home with Chinese takeout and a good book. He went along because he did not want to offend anyone. I pushed back asserting the multiple polite ways to decline an invitation. It seemed to me there was more to this than a case of overly polite manners. After more discussion, it became evident Arnie’s real issue surrounded the “left behind syndrome.”

Actually his reason for going along with the crowd is not as trite as it sounds.  Social media has penetrated our lives. Sitting home alone observing the partying gang posting’s on Facebook or Instagram, can elicit feelings of being left out, but only if you let it.

Sticky note with social media on hand with blue background.

Whether you are a baby boomer, Gen X’er or millennial, hanging out with yourself should be a satisfying and enjoyable experience. Carving out time from your schedule to spend developing your creative side, going for a solitary run or sitting in silence and quieting your mind is a healthy choice. Solitude does not equate to loneliness. Developing a deep connection with yourself leads to clarity on life choices, and future goals.

About a week later Arnie returned to my office proudly announcing he canceled a social engagement, turned off his smart phone

Smartphone with Stop Sign

and spent time alone puttering in the garage with his playlist softly streaming in the background.  When I inquired how he felt about not going out, Arnie flashed a grin admitting he felt relieved. He chose to do what made him happy and realized he wasn’t bored or feeling left out. In fact, he declared, “I’m a rather cool guy to hang out with.” Agreed. Hanging with Arnie is fun.

How to Turn Back Time

happy girl at sunset
Years ago I lived in Canada for a short time. What I remember most about that period of my life were the long and lazy Sundays. It seemed as if that glorious day went on forever and ever. There was time for worship, a drive out to the country to pick up fresh corn, an invigorating hike with my husband, or a day spent curled up by the fire reading a good book.
Fall fireplace

One of the factors that made Sunday a day of luxurious respite from the hectic day-to-day pace was the community shut-down. The only place open for business was a minute grocery store called “Mac’s Milk.” It served as an emergency outlet in case you needed milk for the kids’ cereal on Monday morning or bread for lunches.

Now if I were to revisit that Canadian town on a Sunday I could shop at the mall, pick up my dry cleaning, drive-through a Starbucks for a non-fat cappuccino
coffee cup and beans
or complete my weekly grocery shopping. These activities are identical to what I could accomplish where I live now, or just about anywhere. After reminiscing about my Canadian experience, I realized somewhere along my life’s journey I overlooked the magic of designating a day to things totally unrelated to my ever increasing “to do” list. I decided it was time to turn back the clock.

It does not take a supreme amount of effort for me to forego a mall visit or a trip to the supermarket for provisions on Sunday. What tends to invade my solitude is the overriding technology connection. Recouping the sanity of a relaxing day with no agenda other than to ponder and dream in blissful peace meant imposing a technology ban. For me it meant no tweeting, no checking in with my Facebook friends, no online shopping, no polishing my LinkedIn profile, or spending time in the blogosphere. I had a serious discussion with myself about shutting off my cell phone and refusing to boot-up my laptop no matter how much it called to me.

I am happy to announce unplugging was pure bliss! During the course of last Sunday I found time to take a brief power nap, do some motivational reading, bake a dozen pumpkin scones, treat my dog to a park visit and putter around the kitchen which I find highly therapeutic.

Want to reclaim your day of rest? Follow suit by powering down and calling it a day off with benefits. Try it and let me know how it goes.

Reasons to Smile

Little dog with owner spend a day at the park playing and having fun
After months of job searching, Diane was excited to be back in the workforce again. During the first day on her new job she emailed me two JPG files. Opening them I smiled with delight. One was a picture of a cafeteria and the second a bright blue piggy bank. Contrary to what you may be thinking, this is not one of my advice columns about finding a new job. No, it’s about…well, read on and see what you think.
Blue Piggy Bank

Never before has anyone sent me a picture of a cafeteria. This was a first. Although my client, Diane, was grateful to secure a job which meant drawing a long-awaited weekly paycheck, she wholeheartedly appreciated the small perks that made her first day a welcoming experience. The cafeteria was sparking clean and shiny, well stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. This meant no brown bagging it or running out to expensive, crowded restaurants. My client’s new employer was a large financial institution. The bright blue piggy bank was symbolic of perks such as a free checking account along with other benefits included in the total compensation package.

Later that day I thought about Diane taking a few minutes out of her lunch hour to share her excitement with me. When was the last time I hit the pause button and stopped to show appreciation for simple blessings? About that time I gazed out my office window and watched a vibrant humming bird light on a lantana bush. Yep, got the timely message, and bowed my head in thanks.
free humming bird
Then I wrote this little motivational phase in my daily journal: “Just open your eyes and you will have many reasons to smile.”

It is so easy to get caught up in the rigors of everyday life always working toward that big pot at the end of the rainbow and overlooking reasons to smile and acknowledge tiny gifts. Mahatma Ghandi is credited with saying, “There is more to life than simply increasing speed.” Perhaps it’s time we all slowed down a bit to observe the beauty in the details.

So, the next time you are presented with your own version of a bright blue piggy bank, take action. Acknowledge it with gratitude and thanks. Think about sharing it with someone. Tell me about it in the comments section of this blog. I’d love to see what you uncovered when you stopped to find joy in a small enchanting gift.