Knowing When to Say No and Harnessing the Power of the Mind

This post is a little late in coming, in part because I enjoyed a long weekend with my husband and a couple of fun outings with my kids, but also because I found myself agreeing to do some things I didn’t really want to do.  Did you ever notice how, when we resent something we are doing, it drains us?  Feeling resentment over doing things I didn’t really want to do left me with little energy to complete the things I DID want to do.  One way to know if you are in the right career is if you feel energized not exhausted, by your work.  The problem with extending ourselves too much to please others is that, even if we may have time left in the day for the things we really want to do, we may not have the energy, because resentment requires a lot of energy. 

Setting Boundaries:  Know When to Say No

Now, before you say to yourself, “I’m assertive – I don’t have a problem saying no,” think again.  This is exactly what I was thinking last week when I was reading about setting boundaries.  I was vividly recalling an incident that had happened over a year ago where I had said no, to the point of being selfish and rude.  It left hurt feelings on both sides.  But after realizing one day last week that both of the activities I had scheduled for that day were not those that I really wanted to do, I knew I sometimes have a problem saying no.  Thinking back to last year’s incident, if I had set clear boundaries sooner, (a “little no”), the “big no” could have been avoided and no one would have been hurt.  This is why it is so important to learn to set positive boundaries:  saying “no” in the beginning can often avoid a bigger, messier “no” in the end.

This relates to my experience with job hunting.  When a family relocation forced me to resign from my position as an Instructional Coach, I felt that I was not in a position to say “no” to anything.  It was 2010, and the recession had had time to really dig in.  School districts were making deep cuts; I knew a position as a coach would be difficult or impossible to find.  To make matters worse, we were moving to a resort area with a high cost of living.  I began to think like a desperate person:  I needed a job, any job.  This was what I told my supervisor when she offered to write me a letter of recommendation.  I told everyone who would listen, over and over, that I would go back to the classroom, I would teach anything, I just needed a job.

And that’s exactly what I got.  As readers of this blog know, there were many positives along with the negatives:  I enjoyed being back in the classroom working with adolescents, and I learned tremendous professional and life lessons.  However, I felt drained every day by the stress of not being in the right position and clashing with the philosophy of the administration.  I had little to no energy left to be the kind of mother I wanted to be to my own children when we got home.  I was not fulfilled or energized; I had received exactly what I asked for:  just a job, any job.

Just coincidence, you say?  Consider Henry Ford’s famous words:  “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right”.  It had not even occurred to me that, even though there were no coaching jobs advertised, I could create my own by going into business for myself.  I created my own reality.  Need more convincing about the power of the mind?  Read this study from Psychology Today, “Cheap and expensive wine taste the same in blind taste tests”:

“We are quite bad at tasting the differences between different wines. Even experts are easily fooled. You put a misleading label on a bottle of wine and the experts’ opinions can change dramatically. You can even warm up white wine and color it red (with food coloring) and many judges will think it is a red wine.

This is not just true for wine. Most people can’t taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi (even though most people think they can – I’ve done the experiments). The same is probably true with your favorite drink – say, Powerade vs Gatorade, or your favorite vitamin water or even bourbon. “

It goes on to say that, “The mind takes in information from the sensory world all the time, but that information is just raw material for our experiences. We constantly interpret that and place it into the context of the worlds we have created in our heads. The background story of some item influences those expectations and changes our interpretation – that that’s just as real – to us – as the way wine tastes or a painting looks.”

Harnessing the Power of the Mind to Fulfill Your Dreams

So how do we harness the power of the mind to achieve what we really want?  Coaches use a technique called “neuro-linguistic programming” (neuro=brain, linguistic=language/words).  Sound like hocus-pocus?  It’s actually sound science:  forcing the brain to focus on positive language and imagine success has been proven to increase successful outcomes.  Henry Ford knew it all along.

So start by writing a vision of your dream job:  be specific about location, working environment, job duties, and salary.  Don’t hold anything back – you’re dreaming, so why not shoot for the moon? 

Next, think about what skills and talents you possess that are necessary for this job.  This may not be as easy as it sounds; many of us are much more focused on our weaknesses than our strengths.  Don’t just limit yourself to skills that you are using in your current job – think of all the jobs you’ve had, as well as any skills and talents you might have OUTSIDE the workplace.  Often the activities we enjoy for fun teach us valuable workplace skills.

Now, time to write your resume.  Your old one is probably outdated.  Here is a great article with advice about making your resume current, attention-getting and impressive:

The Search Begins:

Don’t just limit yourself to the classified ads.  Tell everyone you know what it is that you are seeking; you never know who may have a lead or connection.  You can’t underestimate the power of networking.  However, don’t just blindly send off hundreds of copies of your resume, either.  Do a little homework and research the companies in your area that you might like to work for.  Craft a well-written cover letter specific to each company.  Find out who does the hiring and address the letter to that person.  Even if a company doesn’t have any openings at the moment, your motivation and commitment may impress them enough to remember you when something does open up.

Finally, the main point of this post:  don’t be afraid to say no.  If you are called for an interview, remember that YOU should be asking questions as well.  Not only is the employer determining if you are a good fit for their organization, but you are also determining if they are a good fit for you!  Have the confidence to hold out for what you want, and you will be rewarded with fulfillment, energy and happiness.

What have you learned from setting boundaries?  What have you learned from job searching?  Share your thoughts!


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