When Saying 'Yes' Means No

Yoga by Paige Setting Boundaries

One of the biggest learnings I've had during my first couple of months teaching yoga full-time is learning how to say no. When I first stepped into full-time teaching, I told myself I would say yes to everything. I haven't yet read Shonda Rhimes book, Year of Yes, but I was trying to emulate that idea without really understanding the nuance behind it. So stepping into this new role, I decided to say yes to every opportunity that came across my plate. And very quickly, I think it was my second week of full-time teaching, I found myself teaching five yoga classes in one day. Now, I don't know if any of you out there have also done the same thing to yourself, but teaching five yoga classes in a single day will buy you a one-way ticket to crazy town. While trying to flesh out my yoga offering, I ended up overextending myself in a big way. By the time I arrived at the studio to teach my fifth, and last, yoga class of the day, I was absolute toast. I didn't have the energy to be present and command a room--I couldn't even remember the flow that we were practicing because I had taught some variation of it so many times that day that it all started to blend together.

After hitting a hard limit with five classes in one day, I thought I had learned the lesson pretty clearly, until this weekend. I woke up Saturday morning to prepare for an off-day, you know, the kind of day where you reset and prepare for a busy week. Fifteen minutes into my morning, I realized I was quadruple-booked for Sunday. I had big plans of getting marketing content for my upcoming fall retreat with my assistant and husband (just a few tents are left!). We planned on making a day trip to scope out the space and to get a good feeling of the venue before sharing our retreat with a fantastic group this September. Then the realization hit that I had also agreed to teach three classes on Sunday as well. Dread and doom totally took over as my mind began reeling. I quickly spiraled into problem-solving mode but ultimately, canceled my trip to Mendocino because it had the least impact on all the people and places I had agreed to help. Of course, now, I'm left in a bind. I'm still trying to find a new date to make the day trip, but it's looking pretty difficult to balance all the moving parts.

While I learned one limit, the number of yoga classes I can responsibly teach in a day, I still haven't yet learned how to say no when it comes to the essential things. I want to help out my fellow yoga teachers and community, and because I'm still building out my yoga offering, I have continued to say yes because these are teachers and studios that I support and whom I want to do well. I'm also making deposits to the karma bank, knowing that when the time comes I, too, will need help and support.

My most recent work is to find a balance between yes and no. And what I've learned is that saying yes means a big fat no to many other things. My 'yes' turned into a lack of sleep, a lack of focus, a lack of presence, and a lack of excitement. I felt exhausted, rundown, and overall, just kind of crappy. So while saying yes to new things when building and growing can be exciting, it can also very quickly wear you down.

Part of this work and lesson I've learned is to be more aligned with my priorities. Saying yes to every opportunity is also a resounding no to so many other things.

Have you overcommitted before? How do you better balance priorities?

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