In a recent soulful lunch with my friend Allison Braun, we were riffing on business boundaries, opportunities and how to tune your ‘yes compass’. Like many full-hearted humans, we find ourselves engaged with a lot of GIVE. Which is glorious. Generosity is sacred currency.
Beyond giving to others, we also find ourselves engaged with a lot of YES (not all yes is a give). A blissful side-effect to being a purposeful entrepreneur is that opportunities are constantly flowing. The shadow? Hard to know what to jump on and dive into and what to let pass by with a tip of the hat and a ‘thank you, but no.’
So we each compiled our own check lists, unique to us, to help keep us honest and on track. This week’s practice is about helping you build or refine your own compass of discernment. Whether in business, or the rest of life, what you say yes and no to has an impact. First, let me show you mine.
The Check List:
1. Soulfully Aligned and Creatively Expressed: These are two of my Core Desired Feelings. There’s a lot out there that’s awesome, that I’m good at, that I could offer my energy and attention to and make a difference with. But to say yes, I have to check into a longer view of time, soul-time. Does this connect to the deepest part of me and my purpose? Does the fullness of my creative expression get play here? If not, then no.
2. Feels Spacious. Another core desired feeling. Tight timeline? I’m over that. Sure, I can press and hustle and deliver. When life is full, everything can feel squeezed in. But I’m not willing to make myself sick or miss dinner with my kid to pull something off. S P A C E. YES. crammed. NOPE.
3. Coaching. Writing. Speaking. If it’s not one of those things it’s a no go. For work, that is. And writing someone else’s business plan or web copy does not count as writing. These are the current expressions for my art and gifts and this is where the focus is. And that’s it.
4. I’m remunerated. This was a hard one to put on this list. My first thought when someone asks me for something is never ‘what’s in it for me?’ I have generously given away my time and energy for years. And I still do. But there needs to be energy flowing in both directions. Or I can give freely of my time and energy when I know that the one I’m giving to is flowing their time and energy in a direction that feels aligned for me. I feel remunerated when the give I’m giving, grows.
5. It Alleviates Suffering. Maybe it’s a cool opportunity, maybe it’ll help someone out in the short term, but does it expand outward and alleviate suffering? There’s a key piece here…will I suffer if I take it on? Alleviating suffering begins with ourselves, expands into our communities and out into the world. I choose to work with people who are committed to alleviating suffering as well, I’ll give a lot more of myself for the sake of everyone.
The Cross Check:
I lie to myself all the time. I could use that check-list above and say they’re all there when they’re not. This cross-check helps me to catch on to some of my habitual ways of getting myself into commitments I should have said no to.
1. Is this a Zone of Excellence or a Zone of Genius? This helps me to check for real soul-alignment. If something is in my Zone of Excellence, I’m likely to take it on, even though that squeezes out the space to do what I’m most called to do and that which is in my Zone of Genius.
2. Am I saying ‘YES’ to the person or the project? Relationships are so important to me that I’ll put them above all else the majority of the time. If there’s an opportunity to collaborate with or help out someone I love, I often won’t separate them from the work itself. This question helps me to calibrate and be honest about what I’m up for delivering on for others.
3. Do I really have the time? When I imagine a few months out, I always see it as spacious. But it never is. This question has me take a practical look at the time it will take and where that will fit in.
4. What will I have to give up to take this on? I usually don’t want to look at this. But everything I say yes to, I say no to whatever may be in that space. This most important place for me to check is, is there something else I keep deferring or really care about that I’m afraid to do or not getting to that this yes would keep on the back burner?
5. What’s this ultimately on behalf of? How is this soulfully aligned? What’s the purpose here? What am I creating, who am I serving and why? This question often helps me poke at my blind spots a bit.
The Practice: So here we go, if it’s useful for you, it’s time to create your check list for yes. If any of mine here resonate for you, please feel free to claim them as your own. Below are some reflective questions for you to engage with that may help you to discern your check list and your cross check.
Your Check list: These are the ‘must haves’, what you need to have present in order to feel really good about taking something on.
- When I scan back at some of my favourite projects, experiences, relationships or things I took on or said ‘yes’ to, what themes or common threads span all of them?
- When I scan back at things I took on or said yes to, that turned out not to be good for me, or I should have said no to, what was missing that I needed?
- What do I tell myself or others that I want more of?
- What do I tell myself or others that I want less of?
- What do I most want to experience or feel as I give my time and energy to things?
Your Cross-Check: These are the questions you ask yourself to keep you honest and help you to not fall into habitual traps. The following reflection will help you discern what your cross-check questions could be:
- What do my primary considerations tend to be when choosing ‘yes or no’?
- In what ways are these considerations constructive and in what ways are these considerations limiting?
- What habits have I tended to have that ‘get me into trouble’? What question could I ask myself to lovingly prod at the possibility of this habit leading my decision making?
- In what ways do I wish I could take better care of myself or others?
- What tends to leave me feeling empty, hallow, stressed, disconnected or resentful? How might I check if these are present?
May your check-list and cross-check support you in aligning yourself with an inner compass that brings you freedom and joy and enables you to do your best work in the world.