Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.
There will be a lot of decisions to make this season. Should I go to this event? Take on this activity? Host this dinner? Take that trip?
Mine is the type of personality to get an inspiration and dive in. Because my inclinations were never for risky behaviors, it was safe to say I could just back out of if things did not work out. What do I have to lose? What is the worst that could happen?
When my husband and I married we moved to Virginia for me to attend graduate school. Why wait to start a family? I knew other students with a child or two, and another on the way. Taking risks meant being open to readjusting the plan, and not lamenting too much over it. That was the most consistent plan in my life, other than serving God and family.
The first step for me is to consider what do I really want? Do I want an intellectual activity to stimulate thought? Do I want a business endeavor to contribute to my family? Perhaps I am looking for light-hearted company and conversation? Or perhaps I am looking for a way to give of myself and from my experiences that take place outside the home. Maybe all I want is to get outside the home without spending money. When I know what I want, I can start to assess my options.
There was a time in my life when it was easy to make commitments. All I needed to do was assess how much time I have. Now I can only make commitments with a return policy because family circumstances require sudden cancellation at times.
I wanted community, and I wanted to give and have a place to go. I decided to get more involved in the Young Ladies Institute (YLI) at St. Anthony’s here in Hughson. It has so many things I have been looking for: community, close locale, and a way to give.
My urge is to organize and lead events, but I might have to cancel. So I will co-chair. That way, if I need to disappear, I have a backup. The more honest I am about my limitations, the better decisions I make.
I know another woman who is making decisions about her commitments. Her method is to look in one direction, YLI will be her “thing” and she will look away from other options that arise. This frees her up to volunteer for this or that. She can assess her availability based on her young children and husband’s work schedule. It works.
Another friend, who experiences fatigue, has to make decisions based on her energy level. She plans no more than two activities a week in order to conserve energy for taking care of her young kids.
What do I want and what conditions do I need to do it? Knowing these things ahead of time helps prepare me for those moments when I need to decide quickly. Emily P. Freeman, author of Simple Tuesdays and A Million Little Ways, in consider pro/con lists, encourages the reader to first make a list of priorities. What are the things that are most important to me, and in what order? An activity might sound great for me, but if it is a strain for my spouse, and my spouse is more important than the activity, then that “con” weighs more.
When we know what is important to us, too, it strengthens us for the times when it is difficult to say no: when we are needed, when no one else is stepping up, when someone asks for help. Awareness of priorities (like caring for my children) can help make sense of why other commitments matter (like self-care away from home so I can better care for my children).
I change plans less often with this in mind. There still may be cancellations, but only because one priority trumps another. Most people are understanding of that. And frankly, if they are not, then they probably should probably move down a place or two on the list.