Continuing yesterday’s theme of exploring how to answer yes and no questions while staying in integrity with ourselves, I was reminded of a talk by Brene’ Brown about boundaries. (Google Brene’ Brown + boundaries + ring). Paraphrasing it went something like this:

When asked if we can do something, (Brene’s example was her child’s school PTA asked her to make brownies for a bake sale the next day) we often answer without processing the implications. We want to be accepted, liked and agreeable. So we say “Yes, sure I can make brownies for the bake sale!”

Later that evening, an extra stop at the food store is needed so that errand gets added to the “list” and completed. Then at home in addition to getting dinner together for everyone and trying to be present for that process, in the back of her mind, is the still to do task of making brownies. (“Why did I commit to that I have so much to do before I can go to bed?!”)

While the kids settle in for a little pre-bedtime TV and get ready to call it a night, Brene’ describes snapping at them when asked to sit down with them. (Paraphrasing her reply) “I can’t sit with you, I have to make brownies. Don’t you think I would love to sit on the sofa? But I have so much to do, after making brownies I still have to (insert agenda items) so NO, I can’t sit with you.

The point is that we say “Yes” to things that are someone else’s agenda, not ours. Then, we are resentful, and instead of being accountable for over committing, we take that resentment out on those around us. In the above scenario, Brene’ comments on how much more valuable her time would be spent connecting with her family, than standing in the kitchen to complete a task she should have never agreed to.

In her talk, Brene’ describes a now process she implements before answering questions about giving her time to something. She wears a ring that she calls a “boundary ring.” When asked to “make brownies” she now pauses, turns her ring around her finger three times reciting this internal mantra: “Choose discomfort over resentment, choose discomfort over resentment, choose discomfort over resentment” and then, answers authentically.

This is a cost free, personal and private way of checking in with ourselves prior to making commitments. It interrupts our well practiced pattern of saying “Sure!” as a reaction, and creates a space to check in with our well being and make a choice to act from a place of integrity with ourselves, as opposed to obligation or the need to be “liked” or “agreeable.”

Like all good mantras, and habit hacks it takes practice. But take notice, the next time you are asked to donate your time, money, give someone a ride, or host an extravagant meal, how it feels to pause, and plan rather than default to “Yes now, figure it out later.” Because for me, “figuring it out later” almost always means I, and those I love, pay a price for me making commitments beyond what I know to be in alignment with my core and my bandwidth. Simply stated: I am working on putting my own needs and that of my loved ones, ahead of the agendas of others.

As noted yesterday, this practice also begs important questions like “How do I know if saying ‘Yes’ is, in integrity with my core values?” Great question, and more on that in another chat.

One last thought today though. There are many upsides to building this skill of only committing to things we are sincerely in agreement with. But the biggest one may be, that when we DO commit, we can be all in. Next time I say “Yes” to brownies for the bake sale, I will joyfully bake them, my heart with be in it and they will be the best ever. Either that, or I will make a financial contribution and call it a day!

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