Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Art of Saying No.

We’ve all done it: Said yes when what we really meant was no.  There are many reasons that we do it: A fear of disappointing or angering someone; concern that no one will be there for us when we need something; fear of not being liked; or maybe even an underlying belief that we should be self-sacrificing to be worthy of love. Whatever the reason, saying yes when you really mean no leaves you kicking yourself. You’re over-extended, and you’re doing things that really aren’t that important to you. Worse still, you’ve added to the self-loathing that comes with betraying yourself and moving away from what you truly want. So how do you say no? One trick is to do it so gracefully that you sidestep those fears that get kicked up at just the thought of saying no to someone.  Here’s a great example:

Some time ago, my wife was invited to serve as chairman of a committee in a community endeavor. She had  a number of truly important things she was trying to work on , and she really didn’t want to do it. But she felt pressured into it and finally agreed.

                Then she called one of her dear friends to ask if she would serve on her committee. Her friend listened for a long time and then said, “Sandra, that sounds like a wonderful project, a really worthy undertaking. I appreciate so much your inviting me to be a part of it. I feel honored by it. For a number of reasons, I won’t be participating myself, but I want you to know how much I appreciate your invitation.”

                Sandra was ready for anything but a pleasant “no.” She turned to me and sighed, “I wish I’d said that.””


Stephen R. Covey (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Let’s dissect the “no.” If you can take apart the elements of a graceful “no,” and reconstruct it into one that is authentic for you (using your language), you never have to say yes when you really mean no again.

First, notice how the friend comments on the value of whatever is being asked of her: “that sounds like a wonderful project, a really worthy undertaking.”  Since we are afraid of insulting people by implying that their request is not worth our time or is not interesting, this can help the person who is asking something of you to feel that their request or project is still valuable, even though you won’t be there.

Second,   state your gratitude for being thought of, and how it makes you feel to be included. After all, whatever the request, you are being asked because you bring something of value to the situation.   “I appreciate so much your inviting me to be a part of it. I feel honored by it.”


Third, say no. “For a number of reasons, I won’t be participating myself, but I want you to know how much I appreciate your invitation.” Notice how the friend declines, politely, but does so while being kind, thankful , clear and firm? She doesn’t spend time on why she can’t; she doesn’t defend her reasons. She says no politely but firmly.  Also, notice how she doesn’t resort to “I can’t.” She owns the fact that she is making a choice based on her own priorities and doesn’t shy away from that.

So here’s the formula. You fill in the blanks:

That sounds like a _______adjective______ project.  I feel __________________ that you asked me, but for a number of reasons I won’t be participating. Thank you thinking of me.

A few ground rules:

  1. Rework this formula so that it works for you. It should sound like you and not feel like someone else’s language.
  2.  It’s important that you clearly decline. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in being graceful that the other person thinks you’ve actually accepted.
  3. Don’t make excuses.  Try not to say “I can’t.” You rarely can’t do something, you just choose not to. Saying “I can’t” gives away the power you’ve claimed by making a choice about what you can do with your time.

You can be a kind, generous and caring person while still having your own agenda and control over your time. If you don’t take control over your time and agenda, you are living someone else’s life, and ultimately you won’t be giving the world the kindest and most generous gift you can offer: the gift of your true self.


Do you have a reverse-resume?

We all know what a resume is: a piece of paper on which you’ve stuffed all of the skills, experiences and job positions that you believe are relevant to market yourself as the right candidate for a job. No wonder job hunting feels so degrading. You are forced to reduce yourself to one sheet of paper which you pass around to others for evaluation. Sheesh!

What would happen if instead of going into job hunting with the mindset of selling yourself, you flipped job hunting on its head? What if you understood that your value cannot be condensed onto a single sheet of paper, and that your precious time, creative energy, and life’s work should not be sold to the highest bidder (or in this market sometimes to the only bidder?) What if you started searching for a job by searching your soul before searching the want ads?

Introducing the concept of the reverse-resume. Instead of finding jobs that your one-page version of yourself might be a “fit” for, what if you instead spent time figuring out what qualifications the JOB needs to have before you’ll entertain giving it some of the best years of your life? You probably have enough life-experience at this point to know that you need to be doing work that’s meaningful to you, that excites you and that makes you feel competent in order to feel happy in life. It’s not the only component of a happy life, but it’s a critical component since we spend so much time at work and since we often in part define our lives by the output and actions – the work we do (in this case, at work.)

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”  Lewis Carroll

Job searching that starts with soul searching is much more likely to land you a job that feels more like a calling. But first you have to know where you are going. The way to do that is to write your reverse-resume.  Here’s a basic template to get you started:

Objective: What is your objective? Not just to find a job, but to find one that gives you meaning, purpose, and contributes to your overall happiness.  It’s your responsibility to define this as clearly as possible. What will make you feel that way? What’s meaningful for you? What would you like to contribute? What is going to make you fall into bed each night exhausted and thrilled at the same time?

Experience(s): What do you want to experience in this next job situation? Do you want to lead a team, be part of something that’s growing, have a chance to travel or work on a particular project? What things will you be doing day-to-day and also what larger vision will you be working towards? Define your desired experiences no matter how large or small.

Education: What do you want to learn from this? From skills to personal growth experiences, what do you want to gain?

Skills: What parts of who you are and what you know are you going to get to use on a regular basis? Do you love to do something and you want to do it as part of the next job? If so, write it down!

Salary Requirements: What do you want to make? What will make you feel great about your financial health?

Feel free to add any categories that seem relevant for you. In fact, if you come up with one, please post it as a comment!

Remember, your reverse-resume is not some head-in-the-clouds vision board. This is a set of instructions for you so that you can more clearly define what you are after and for you to know when you’ve found it. Don’t say that you want to make a million dollars unless you are prepared to work your butt off to land that job. Strive to create a balance between your vision and what is realistic – there may be several steps along the path to your ultimate vision.

Creating a reverse-resume is a way to remind yourself that you are worth MORE than what’s listed on your regular old resume. You’ll still need a resume to market yourself, but your reverse-resume will help ensure you don’t sell yourself short.

Live Workshop!

Just a quick post to let you know about an upcoming workshop! The description and registration info is here:

Discover your Life Calling:

Do you feel unfulfilled, lacking direction or unhappy in your work or overall, in your life? Do you know there’s something more, but can’t figure out what it is? Do you believe you could be living a fuller expression of your life?

This two hour workshop is designed to help you begin the journey of discovering your life calling. The evening is interactive, creative, and introspective. Come prepared to write, create, explore your feelings and share with others. We will discuss what a life calling is (and isn’t) and examine the components and structure of a calling. Exercises designed to help you tune into your true self, own your passions, and unearth your talents and skills will allow your calling to begin to take shape.

When: Monday, 5/7 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Where: Roots & Wings Healing Arts 317 N. Main St., Natick, MA 01760

Fee: $30/$40 at the door

How to Register:

OR contact Jessica Sweet with questions or to register by phone:

(781) 640-7250, or email:

Is the search for a life’s calling a “luxury problem”?

      Is your yacht in the shop, again? Seriously? I hate that. I also can’t stand it when I can’t decide which of my cars to drive, or whether I should go to Hawaii or Italy for vacation. Isn’t life so hard?

Ok. I have no yacht, I drive a (messy) mini-van, and I’ve never been to Hawaii OR Italy. Seriously though, people have a lot of misconceptions about life callings, and one of them is that the search for a life calling is a “luxury problem” like those above. To most people, what is more realistic is what I someone told me at a networking event: “Life calling? I can’t even pay my rent. I’ll worry about that when I’ve got a couple of million dollars to keep me warm.” Well, yes, you could wait that long, but then how much of your life will have you wasted doing things you don’t love?

A life calling is not a “luxury” problem just for those who have nothing better to worry about. Neither is it a metaphysical issue (see Life Callings for the Mainstream). A life calling is quite simply a statement of what your life is about and what you are here to do. Think of it like a business mission statement. This statement is a way for a business to describe why they are in existence. Wikipedia defines a business mission statment like this:

“A mission statement is a statement of the purpose of a company or organization. The mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making. It provides “the framework or context within which the company’s strategies are formulated.”

In the same way, your life calling is your mission statement. It describes your purpose, guides your actions, spells out your goals, provides your path and helps guide your decision making. We use these ideas all the time when it comes to business – and we agree they are essential. But when it comes to our lives, we feel that strategic planning is for many reasons, not something we should be doing. Businesses that only spend their time resolving day-to-day crises don’t end up where they envision themselves, and we don’t end up with meaningful and happy lives unless we can spend the time it takes defining what is meaningful to us.

“OK, I’m convinced. But how the heck do you find your life calling?” you ask. I’m not going to lie: it takes soul searching. It requires the ability to work on this issue which, though essential, is all too easily ignored. And it requires a good dose of faith in yourself.

Here’s the crash course:

1. Listen to yourself. Not the part of you that’s afraid, that tries to people-please, or who believes you can’t. Listen to your True Self.

2. Identify your Passions. What makes you feel alive?

3. Think about your skills. What you’re great at, both learned and natural talents.

4. What do you love to give to others?

5. What is your essence? Who are you really?

6. Understand your life experiences. What has life been trying to teach you?

Call it whatever you’d like: A life’s calling, a personal mission statement, your purpose, or something else.  Taking the time to find the life that fits for you is not a luxury. It is essential to helping you define and create the life you want so you live with no regrets.

For more help getting started, get my FREE article “Find Your Life Calling.”

The Giving Experiment


I have an idea that is slowly forming. I’ve talked to some pretty smart people about it, and each time I do, the idea changes and grows a bit. I don’t know the final form this idea will take, or if it will be a series of ideas all carried out in different ways. That’s why it’s aptly named The Giving Experiment.

You see, one of my core beliefs, and an idea that Wishingwell Life Coaching is based upon, is that if we all do with our lives what we are “supposed” to do – whatever uses our talents, makes us giddy with joy, and that which naturally flows from us – then we are contributing to the world at our highest potential. Giving, in this way, seems essential for our happiness as individuals and for the overall happiness of the machine of society. If each of us “cogs” isn’t doing their part, the machine fails. Forgive me for calling you a cog, but while we are all unique and gifted individuals we are also piece of the beautiful tapestry of life. If we don’t live to our potential, we leave the place filled with holes.

Giving in this way inspires me, and I want to share that inspiration with others. The Giving Experiment is a way to do that. So for Challenge One of The Giving Experiment I want to invite all of you to become contributors on my Pinterest pinboard “Giving.”

If you are not familiar with Pinterest, here’s how it describes itself: “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.”

On my “Giving” pinboard, I’d love for you all to contribute words or pictures that capture how you give back, something that inspires you about how others give of themselves, something you’d like to make a difference about and more. Make sure to include the story behind the picture so we all get it. A pinboard created by all of us will be very cool! It’s going to capture the unique ways we give to the world and create a community of like-minded people: those dedicated to making the world a better place through sharing what they have to give.

To contribute, send me your Pintrest username by emailing it to me at , and I’ll add you as a contributor to the board.