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How to Turn a Hot Mess Into a Powerful Message

How to Turn a Hot Mess Into a Powerful Message

Why are we all so freaked out about the mistakes, failures, and mess-ups in our lives? If we look around, we’ll see plenty of folks who have turned a hot mess into something redemptive.

Take a look at Oprah Winfrey; she is one of the most loved and successful women on the planet—and probably the most transparent. That’s why people love her. A week didn’t go by without her struggles, especially with food, being plastered all over TV, magazines and the Internet. People related to Oprah’s struggle because of their own; maybe not with weight, but with something, and that’s what connected them to her. That’s what connects us to each other, because in the telling of our stories, we see we’re all on the same playing field.

Oprah took turned her mess into a message by taking off her mask and getting real: through it she created something hugely redemptive.

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That’s what John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted did. After the abduction of his young son, he was determined to do something to help other families who went through the same horrific struggle. He started a television show, and through the 25 years it has run, he has helped capture over a thousand criminals.

How about Candice Lightner who started MADD after her 13 year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver? And even though Lance Armstrong blew it, he founded Live Strong to help survivors of cancer and their families. Each of these folks turned a hot mess into a powerful message. Each has done something redemptive for mankind, and each had a few things in common.

They all:

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  • Failed in some way
  • Made a mess out of something
  • Suffered pain and heartache
  • Persevered
  • Never quit
  • Had the courage to tell their stories

Here’s the point: we don’t have to be perfect to be influential or make a difference. What we have to do is be willing to use our stories and our pain to help encourage others.

Where do we begin? Consider this:

Consider telling your story

When bad things happen in our lives, we generally want to keep them under wraps. Why? Because we don’t want people to think poorly of us or reject us, especially if we’ve messed up. Shame causes us to hide, but hiding never helped anyone. Ask yourself if what you’ve been through could possibly help encourage someone else. If the answer is yes, step out and tell your story and let it be used to strengthen others and give them hope.

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Find your passion

What do Oprah, Walsh and Lightner all have in common? Passion. They were passionate about a cause, and they wanted to direct that passion toward helping others. You may not be passionate about much these days, especially if you’ve just gone through a difficult time, but somewhere percolating below the conscious surface, there is something you care about—maybe even enough to start a revolution!

Narrow your vision

Once you figure out what you’re passionate about, it’s time to narrow your focus. Walsh focused on catching criminals and Lightner focused on drunk drivers.  Find your niche and figure out how you can spread your message.

Don’t give up

Anything worth doing is going to take time and effort. You have to keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. The cause will be your motivator. Keep your focus and press on. Much of what we become passionate about has to do with the personal struggles we’ve gone through. From there a desire is birthed to help others or change society.

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Think bigger picture

No matter what’s happened in your life, your story isn’t finished yet. There is still a lot of living to do. We all need time to heal from the messes of our lives, but after we’ve healed, we need to consider re-investing our hearts with a bigger plan and purpose in mind.

So where does that leave you? How can you learn from those that have gone before you?  How can you turn all those places in your life that you’ve wanted to hit the delete button on, into something profoundly redemptive? Start by being transparent, and see what will happen with your hot mess.

Back at you: Have you ever been in a hot mess? If so, how have you turned things around for the greater good?

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Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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