Years ago, when Cheryl Richardson first introduced the concept of extreme self-care in her book Take Time for Your Life, she had her clients create an Absolute Yes list. This is a list of about seven priorities culled from the areas of emotional, physical or spiritual health, relationships, work, community service and the like. Once it was clear what was most important to the client, (s)he was to keep that list front and center when a decision needed to be made concerning how (s)he spent hir time and energy. If a potential activity was not an Absolute Yes then it was a Clear No.
Thirteen years later, after working with thousands of clients needing help to get their chaotic lives in check, she now suggests making another list. She claims that “most people need to remove at least 30% of what they have on their plates just to get started.”
Thirty Per Cent!
Do you think maybe, as a society, we’re doing too much?
To that end, she suggests the Absolute No List, those things, she says, that “you no longer do or would like to stop doing in order to protect your precious energy and to honor your values . . . [and] protect your quality of life.”
Cheryl suggests we spend the first week of this month in sleuth mode, making note of those things we no longer do, no longer want to do, or would like to give up at some point in the future.
There’s usually a lot of resistance to making such a list. Women, in particular, are not comfortable claiming what they consider an undue sense of entitlement especially if it might effect their children in some way. I was fascinated to learn that Cheryl was once booed on Oprah for suggesting that mothers needed to put their self-care ahead of their children’s needs. She persevered, despite such a public demonstration of outrage (who gets booed on Oprah?), because she has worked with countless adults who struggle with the fall-out of being raised by a rage-filled mother whose needs were never met. Think about that the next time you tell yourself you can’t leave your children for a couple of hours so you can enjoy a cup of tea and adult conversation with a friend.
She suggests we “pay attention to sources of frustration in your life–the same old arguments, the typical commitments you make that backfire, or the situations that always leave you feeling drained or resentful.”
Your body can give you great clues. Any tension or tightness or aching or short-breathedness (is that a word?) or edginess or short-temperedness are clues you need to follow to their source. Are these symptoms related to something you are doing that you would much rather not be doing, that you are doing out of duty or obligation or a misplaced sense of martyrdom? Is it something someone else would be happy to do for you, perhaps in exchange for something you’d rather do? Or, if you have the means, for money. Or maybe it’s time for someone else (a teenager in your home, for example, to start learning how to cook or do laundry).
Sleuthing done, make your list.
Once you have your list, post it where you’ll see it every day for the next month.
And read it every day, while imagining it as a self-care software upgrade you are uploading to your brain. Over time, with repetition and awareness, it will help to upgrade you to a more efficient and effective life.
Cheryl listed 35 Absolute Noes her friends shared to help us get started. I’ll include 5 of them here as a jumpstart but I highly recommend that you have a look at her book to read them all.
There’s a lot of food for thought in that list.
My Absolute No List: I No Longer . . .
Argue with people who see debating as a sport.
Use my credit cards unless I can pay then off in full at the end of the month.
Live without pets.
Keep anything in my home that I don’t need or love.
Take phone calls during meals.
Now it’s your turn.
See you at the end of the month.