Tip 233 in Gregory Lang’s life instruction book called, Simple Directions for Finding Your Way, says: “Keep your workspace neat” because “neatness is a sign of organization and organization is a sign of promotability.” The six-inch-square, unassuming book sits to the side of my messy desk with number 233 highlighted in yellow. I’m not quite sure why I’ve highlighted it, but it must amuse me that my unrestraint is mentioned in a book; at the same time, the simple statement jabs at my conscience. I mean, really, shouldn’t I have a clean desk?
When colleagues and friends come into my office, I watch their eyes fall on the book. Distracted by its title, they casually pick up the little text, curious to see what’s inside. Thumbing through its practical wisdom, they frequently land on highlighted tip number 233, and you can guess their reactions as they face the stacks and piles, strewn to-do lists, stuffed folders, and multi-colored sheets of paper barely held together by plastic-coated paper clips. Some just bust a gut in laughter. Others release a soft, sympathetic smile. Do-gooders wince in silent condemnation, and one particular friendly-fire visitor unabashedly looked up and said, “Well, you’re screwed!”
Countless times, I’ve wondered about my inability to rein in my out-of-control desk. What the heck is wrong with me that I don’t have enough personal pride to maintain a neat work area? A trusted friend voiced the answer one day: “It’s a reflection of your weak personal boundaries.” Whoa. YES!!! Poor organization of my desk space mirrors my poor boundary management with people. Confidently, people trespass, but then, again, I never post a proper sign! And, this, I’ve come to realize, discombobulates my equilibrium. Because of fear, doubt, pride, or guilt, too many I-really-don’t-want-tos easily surrender to yes-I-wills … or, more to the lying point … yes-I’d-be-HAPPY-tos. This is why I am beginning to believe in the sublime and supreme power of NO.
The power of NO organizes and clarifies. The power of NO de-clutters and delineates; it determines what is good for you and what is not. It clears away chaos to make space – thought space, emotional space, spiritual space. It frees up lifetime space to say yes to the things that matter.
I used to inwardly begrudge those persons who could easily turn down a project or turn away an invitation or, even, say no to a friend. How could they do that, I thought? After all, isn’t the significant life all about sacrificing and giving?
Middle life makes you pause, not because of hot flashes, weight gain, and wrinkles, but because of newly gained insight … of small epiphanies that make you realize that NO gives you the power to purposefully chart your course in life, to make the tough personal choices required to promote a fulfilling and God-driven life.
My desk is still a mess. I am still working on defining my work space, as well as my life space. It isn’t always easy and hardly ever clear, but the power of NO provides me with the necessary building tool to start the process. Now, all it takes is practice.
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