Success depends on getting good at saying no without feeling guilty. You cannot get ahead with your own goals if you are always saying yes to someone else’s projects. You can only get ahead with your desired lifestyle if you are focused on the things that will produce that lifestyle. – Jack Canfield

Get involved.  Multi-task.  Maximize your exposure.  Work extra hard.  Embrace new opportunities. Be everywhere.
Don’t these mantras sound like common advice for those looking to achieve success in their career and build the life that they desire?  If we only work harder and take on as many responsibilities as we can bear, we’re sure to find success at the end of the long, hard road.
Right?
Well, that depends on how you define success in your life…

What Does Success Look Like for Your Family?

It may be cliche, but it’s also very true that if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.  In most marriages, there is no discussion or definition for success.
How can you achieve what you want in life if you have no idea what it is?
I hear all the time both on Engaged Marriage and in “real life” from couples who are overstretched, over-committed and feeling like they never have enough quality time with their spouse or children.  They feel like they are always running from one appointment, practice or event to the next with no opportunity to stop and enjoy the goodness in their lives.
Does this sound familiar?  If so, then it’s time for you to spend 15 minutes with your spouse and have a heart-to-heart chat about what you actually want out of your life together.
Once you know what changes you desire, you’ll be able to assess how you spend your time and start using a mysterious and magical word that seems to have been deleted from the vocabulary of many American families.

Just Say NO!

Nancy Reagan may have officially rendered this phrase uncool in the 1980’s (and I may have just rendered myself officially old by referencing it), but it’s something that I remind myself of every day.  You see, I am the type of guy who loves to help people, and I love to help myself “get ahead” as well by establishing connections and building a reputation as someone who is dependable and very productive.
Of course, your ability to participate in so many activities has a logical limit.  And you find your limit shrinks as you get married, grow your career and, especially, when you have children with all of their own activities vying for your precious time.
This is when you realize that your life is hardly your own anymore.  You have way too many commitments eating up your days, and you realize that you aren’t spending the quality time working on the truly important things: your faith life, your marriage and real interaction with your family and friends.
The only way I’ve found to combat this cycle of ever-increasing stress and acceleration of life-speed is simply by saying NO.
This starts by cutting down your existing commitments to a level that you are comfortable with.  While it can be tough to drop a volunteer activity, a side job or a recreational activity, you must be willing to drop some activities to regain a sense of control and balance with your time.
Once you’ve established those boundaries, you have to maintain the balance.  This means that when you add a new activity to your life, another one must be dropped.  Again, this is going to be a challenge for most of us.

A Bit of Personal Experience

To be honest, I’ve had to face a major struggle the past few months around this very topic.  I seemingly woke up one day and felt totally overwhelmed.  There was no time during the day when I felt truly relaxed.  There was always another task in my head that needed to be completed.
This feeling sucked.
So, I decided it was time for a change.  I took an inventory of all the “stuff” that had accumulated as part of my daily, weekly and monthly schedule.  And I prioritized those items that meant the most to me and my family from a spiritual, relational, recreational and financial standpoint.  And I cut out several commitments that meant a lot to me…but not the most.
Well, as expected, the challenge to stay “lean” on activities and avoid over-committing came quickly.  As I was presented with an opportunity to partner with a good online friend on a major new project, I really had to do some soul searching.  I knew that if I pursued it, as much as I loved the subject matter and potential upside, it would mean cutting out even more from the rest of my busy life.
After much consternation, I decided to make those sacrifices and move forward.  As a result, Fit Marriage went live just a couple weeks ago, and there is much, much more to come on that front.
By being proactive and choosing the projects that mean the most to me, I have been able to produce a site/project/business that I know is going to help many busy couples achieve their best in both their physical fitness and their marriages.
What are you willing to give up in order to truly pursue your passions?  What will you say NO to this week to improve your own life and marriage?

(photo source)

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