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January 10, 2022


Setting boundaries is NOT about saying “No”

In this week’s Systems Change Newsletter…

  • Invitations & Announcements
  • Catalytic Thinking Exercise:What will you say YES to?
  • Resources to Further Your Practice

Invitations & Announcements:

This month’s Integrity Conversation is happening today, where we will continue to apply Catalytic Thinking to the critical topic of Succession Planning. Join us during the event or watch and add your thoughts later.. Info is here…

Catalytic Thinking Exercise: What will you say YES to?

New Years resolutions are often about setting boundaries. With so many of us feeling stretched too thin, we are encouraged to learn to say “no.” And yet “saying no” is something we often struggle with.

We say yes (even when we really don’t want to do whatever is asked of us),

then we feel overwhelmed,

so we promise ourselves to say “no” from that point forward,

then we again find it hard to say “no”,

so we say “yes” again,

then we feel overwhelmed…

Understanding how our human brains work, it is easy to see why this happens. Because our survival depends on our bonds with each other, our brains are wired to build those bonds. When we think about saying “no,” it can therefore feel physically uncomfortable. That’s because our brains release chemicals that encourage connection, and saying “no” breaks that connection.

What, then, can we do this year, to help us set boundaries and focus on what is most important to us?

Try this
Instead of practicing saying no, make a list of what you will say YES to. Then only say yes to those things.

  • I will say yes to spending time with my family
  • I will say yes to finishing the novel I’ve been writing
  • I will say yes to opportunities to work on climate change

From there, when people ask you to do something that is not on your list, you have two choices.

a) If you truly want to say yes – if that thing excites you and gets your juices flowing - add it to your list and say yes. It might be getting season tickets for your local theater company, and you love the theater. “I will say yes to the things that bring me joy.”

b) If the request is NOT worthy of being added to the YES list, then you now have a more comfortable way of explaining, “I have vowed this year to put all my extra time into fighting climate change. I’m afraid I don’t have time for anything beyond that.”

When you’re encouraged to “just say no,” you wind up thinking up excuses and feeling guilty.

By instead having a list of what you will say YES to, when something comes along that doesn’t fit, you won’t need to come up with an excuse. You will have determined your true north, establishing what is most important to you, and making it much easier to be clear with others.

One more benefit of this approach: It can actually create connection. “I had no idea you were working on climate change. Who are you working with? My cousin has been working with a group she’s excited about. Shall I connect you two?” The conversation is honest, positive, and potentially inspiring. You’ll be setting boundaries AND heading towards the things you really want to do.

So, in these first few weeks of the new year, think about what you want this year to make possible for you. And then say “yes” to those things that will turn that dream into reality.

When you do, you will quickly see why Catalytic Thinking focuses on creating what is possible (identifying your “yes”) vs. fixing what is wrong (learning to say “no”). It’s all a matter of the brain chemistry that leads us humans to success.

Resources to Support Your Practice:

  • READ: Hildy’s article on Finding Your True North will inspire you to create what is possible in this new year. Read it here…
  • LEARN:  Add rocket fuel to all your efforts this year via our click-and-play classes on Catalytic Thinking and Collective Enoughness / sharing resources. Create your future here…
  • LISTEN: This playlist came from many of you - tunes of inspiration, hope, and fearlessness to celebrate this new year. Listen and get energized…
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels (modified)

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Creating the Future's Mission
Teach people how to change the systems they find themselves in,
to create a future different from our past -
all by changing the questions they ask.

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