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Trust in Yourself: A Four-Step Plan

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A technology leader received a promotion to manager reflecting his excellent skills, his ability to build relationships with clients and teams, and his sense of what the company needed. After six months, he requested a demotion back to his old level: he hated administration and needed to be closer to the work.

That leader knew what he wanted was far more important than what the company wanted, and he took a major chance that worked out well. As a result, he thrived where he might have failed and years later he retired stress-free and satisfied.

You may find yourself on a different path—wanting and enjoying that promotion. But whatever direction you take, you have to begin with liking and trusting yourself enough to ask for what you want.

Step 1. Know Your Priorities

The way you divide your time and energy should at least partially reflect your priorities. Life intervenes, and we may have to limit the time and energy we expend on what we love to do. However, often our list of priorities far exceeds anyone’s capacity for doing it all. Then it is time to take stock. Ask yourself:

  • “How long have I been thinking about this?” If a task remains on your list for weeks (months, years), you should consider crossing it off. Completion clearly has little or no effect on your life right now.
  • “Why am I doing this? What is the goal? Do I have control over the desired outcome?” If you answer “no” to having control over the outcome, stop. Cross that item off your list. Focus on what you can control.
  • “What will it take for me to succeed?” If you lack the resources to succeed at this goal, you need to gather the resources first. If the item is too large (“run a marathon”), break it into doable pieces (“run 1 mile”). 
  • “What happens if I chose not to do it right now?” Check-in with yourself on how important the task is right now. When you have trouble saying no or you give every obligation the same weight, you are courting stress.

Step 2. Say No

When you put everyone’s needs come before your own, you begin to believe that saying “no” makes you a bad, rude, or selfish person. Learning to say “no” is realizing that you are valuable.

Ask yourself if an obligation is not only something you have to do but also something you want to do. When the answer is “no” in both cases, then say “no.” 

But to say “no” with conviction, you must have self-efficacy: you must recognize and stand up for your own boundaries. What is it you do not have to do? Allow unpleasant people in your life; accept being on call at work 24/7/365; bow to social pressure to take that next drink? 

The power of “no” is in stating clearly to others what is okay and what is not okay. Here are some tips to harness the power of “no” and reduce stress in your life:

  • Be brief. Avoid elaborate justifications or explanations. 
  • Be respectful and be polite. But remember, “no” is a complete sentence.
  • Be honest. Fabricating reasons to refuse a request will only create the stress you are trying not to have.

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