Sitting around the conference room table in the early 1990’s, our management team dissected (some of us more enthusiastically than others) the wisdom set forth by Steven Covey in his management doctrine, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It was required reading for the team, and each Monday one person’s name would be drawn from the bowl and he or she would be required to lead that week’s lesson. It could get pretty interesting when some unwitting leader-to-be hadn’t done their homework!
A handful of Covey’s tenets have stuck with me through the years. All of my work teams (and my poor family, too) have heard plenty of preaching about the “emotional bank account,” and “seeking first to understand,” just to name a couple of principles. Recently my heart grew three sizes when my 21-year-old son, Jake, read the book for a college class, sparking some great conversations; it took me back to the days around the conference room table, and it was so heartening to see him embrace some of the ideals I have espoused for years!
These days, my focus has landed on Covey’s advice, “It’s easy to say no when there’s a deeper burning yes.” I’m coming off a rough year (more like three, actually) where “I’m sorry I just can’t commit to that right now,” was often my go-to response, due to the unpredictable needs of my sick mother (and my desire to be with her as much as possible as her days came to an end). Being a wife, a mother of two boys, and a woman with an active career, obviously I said yes plenty of times; I simply became better-skilled at separating the “yes” list from the “no.”
Saying no instead of yes comes a lot easier when you’re in the grip of a life-altering experience like caring for an ailing family member, or grieving their loss. But, as I get back up to speed after a hiatus from taking on projects just because “I should,” I strive to take advantage of this life “reset.” How? By focusing on what really matters in my life…whether it’s related to family, work, faith, community or – yes – me. My goal is to avoid eking out precious, limited time to activities and projects that don’t fall in the deeper burning yes category.
So what will the end result be, then? I hope it will mean time spent on work and community projects where I can really make an impact; quality time with my family (immediate and extended) where we enjoy each other, talk together, and have fun together; time with friends running, doing yoga and lifting each other up (emotionally!); and regular time spent in worship, feeding my spirit. These are my deeper burning yeses.
What are yours?