Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Kindness Project: Be Your Word

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole. It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts. We post the second Wednesday of every month. 


So publishing is an industry where schedules and deadlines are constantly changing. "We'll have that to you by next week" frequently means "three weeks from now". Books get bumped. Things get pushed back. Something that you thought you would know about by summer, you won't know until December. I've been pretty lucky in that things with my book seem to be on pace with happening when they're supposed to happen, but I certainly am not hanging my hat on that. This is the reality of our industry. And believe me, working on both sides of the desk, I know there are many, many reasons that things don't happen as planned or at all. There are a lot of people involved and honestly, there are many times when you are ready, willing & able to move mountains but certain things are simply out of your control.


This constant state of flux was and sometimes still is very hard to accept. But accept it I must. I'm not angry with the publishing world because "stuff" happens. Believe me, I've had to push back deadlines with my authors because something out of my control happened. I get it probably more than most. I have become sorta Zen about it and just keep going. However, for me, I've learned a really valuable lesson in navigating this system. One that I've tried to integrate into my own life.


The lesson: Be Your Word.


Experiencing the changing nature of the publishing world has made me realize the value of a verbal commitment in my non-publishing life. I realize that when I say something and I follow through on it, I've created a foundation for trust. I've given my friends and family a reason to believe in me. I also realize that I can and should only make that commitment for myself when I'm responsible for the outcome. I am trying not to answer for my husband without discussing it with him. My commitment isn't automatically our commitment. 


And so, since the beginning of the year, I have worked really hard at being my word. But more than that, I've had to work really hard at not committing to something that I'm not going to be able to do. I, like many, want to say "yes" to everything. I want to help everyone out. I want to join everything, be part of a community. Saying "no" is extremely difficult for me. But what happens is that I overcommit, get overwhelmed, and then cancel everything. So not only am I letting one person down, I'm letting down everyone I've made commitments to.   


So now, I say "yes" to fewer things, but when I do, it means something. And I am also more willing to say, "I don't know, I'll try" instead of an immediate "yes". Some days, this doesn't work out so well. I still overcommit. I still want to do all the things and consequently end up doing none of them. But I'm more aware of it and try harder not to do that.


Be Your Word in the areas of your life you can control. That, to me, is radical kindness. 


Now go pop on over to some of the other folks in the Kindness Project and see what they're up to:



19 comments:

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I have to learn to be better about this. My first instinct is always to say yes, but what a disappointment to them and to me when I struggle to follow through. You're right--it's much more important to say yes meaningfully than just to say yes. And then to make a point of following through on your word.

Lola Sharp said...

It's only been in the last 5 years that I've finally learned to say no...sans guilt, sans giving my list of reasons why I can't (that was the guilt explaining). I went a lot of decades saying yes to everyone and everything...and stressed out. Because when I say yes, I do it well...I go the distance.
Anyway, learning to say "no" is one of the best things I've ever done for myself. And now a yes is indeed, as you say, far more meaningful.

I hope you are enjoying your summer, C. <3

Michele Shaw said...

Yes! This! If there is one thing I've never wavered on, it's follow through...no matter how much I wanted to blow off something I wish I hadn't agreed to. Sometimes it's hard but you found the exact right word in TRUST. I don't trust people who balk at keeping their word, and I never want people to feel that way about me. This can mean saying no at times (which is like pulling a stubborn tooth for me) but I have come to realize my limitations and occasionally the n-word passes my lips. Even if it's a sputtering, "N. N. N. Nnnno." (Probably followed by a profuse apology. I'm still working on that.)

Barbara Watson said...

Being our word. Wow. This hits such a place with me. As a teacher, I see the daily pain in kids where broken promises have harmed them so deeply.

Sara McClung said...

Having people in my life that I know I can rely on no matter what gives me such a strong sense of peace--so I try to do that for people as often as I can. You're right though, it can be so easy to overextend ourselves--and have the BEST of intentions while doing so, but then fall short because saying yes came too easily and we run out of time. Learning to say no without feeling like a failure of a friend is a hard lesson to get through, but in the end, being honest about the time we have is a kindness to ourselves AND the people we'd have disappointed if we'd said yes. If that makes sense, I feel like I just rambled on and on, ha.

lizakane.me said...

I value the people in my life that I can truly depend on...and I've become more selective of what I commit to because I WANT to be that dependable person for someone else. Thank you for the reminder

Lindsay said...

"Be your word" is such an awesome phrase. I related to this post so much! I have the hardest time saying "no." I hate letting people down.

Sara B. Larson said...

Saying no is so hard sometimes, but it's so much better than saying yes and not following through. I hate it when that happens to me and I feel absolutely sick if I'm the one who does it to someone else. Building that trust is vital to having deep, meaningful relationships--and that's what I want in my life. Great post. Thank you!

Sarah said...

I try to limit my commitments for exactly this reason. I always want to turn things in when I say I will, and be there when I've promised. Not always possible, but it's important to me, because I know how frustrating it is--and how trust-demolishing--when those promises aren't kept.

Sophia Chang said...

YES! It's become astronomically important for me to be impeccable with my word - particularly living in L.A. I make sure to be as reliable as I can about my commitments, so that I only attract similar people. I relax my relationships with flakes (that's my nice way of saying it) and focus and cultivate the people who are dependable.

Elodie said...

Very well said, Christa!
I think we all want to say "yes" to everything and sometimes the "yes" we give end up hurting more than a "no", does that make sense?
I´m starting to get better at saying "no", not when it comes to helping other people but for things that I know will put too much stress on me and on them at the end :D
But it´s not always easy!

Roxanne Galpin said...

This is a great post and one I needed to read. I have trouble saying no, thinking I'm being kind by not refusing anyone's request, only to fall behind and have to be unkind when I have to push things back. Still, it's difficult to say no.

Matthew MacNish said...

Word is bond. Now, if only I could get published so I could experience some of this. LOL.

erica m. chapman said...

What a great message. Sometimes we want to say "yes" to everything and then we can't commit 100% to each thing, and end up only giving around 50%. So if you'd just said no to a few the quality of the ones you said "yes" to would go up in quality. I love that part about creating a foundation of trust, that's so spot on!!

Great post ;o)

Brinda said...

I have a difficult time to "no" when I'm asked for help. I want to help everybody. I don't say this as a pat on my own back. It makes me stressed and then I don't accomplish some things I want to on time. I need to manage my load better.

Medeia Sharif said...

I agree. I used to have a hard time saying "no," but I've found it easier. In the past I couldn't accomplish my goals because I was saying yes to everything, and then I became resentful at the people asking or angry at myself for saying yes or not being able to follow through.

Heather said...

That's excellent advice! I stretch myself too thin at times too and then scramble to get things done. In the end, we must be our word, and make sure we don't extend ourselves beyond what we're capable of. Well said!

Alina said...

This is something I've struggled with as well. Late nights, exhaustion, and finding that my responsibilities to my home and family get neglected have made me realize it isn't sustainable. Burnout helps nobody. So I'm learning that a polite "no" is a necessary response in many cases. A tough, but valuable lesson indeed. And a kindness. Well said!

She's doing it again... said...

This is so true - it's hard to say no, it's harder to admit to yourself that you can't do it all, but in the end it makes things much better and more balanced when you do. I love these kindness posts!!