Teacher: Do you have trouble saying no?


For this week’s summer reading series, I’m going to keep this short and sweet because that’s the basic principle of this week’s book recommendation:  Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

This is a book that I recommend to almost anyone who wants to live a more simple life.  And don’t most teachers want that?

In fact, I even used some Essentialism tips in The Path of the Mindful Teacher.  And even cooler, Greg McKeown, even wrote a little “blurb” for the book…

Here’s what he wrote….

“Path of the Mindful Teacher provides teachers with a roadmap for discerning  what is in their control and what may be best to let go in order to increase serenity  and calm both in the classroom and beyond. Creating boundaries through focusing  on the vital few is sure to bring a more balanced quality to all parts of life, leading  to a more satisfying teaching career.” Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: the disciplined pursuit of less

Pretty cool, right?!

So, because of my absolute love for this book (not to mention I’m actually re-reading it right now) I wanted to pass on a little simplifying technique that can be useful for both school and personal life.

One of our biggest issues with being stressed is not knowing how to say no and adding things to our plates.  We like to be helpful and dependable (especially with our families and our students), but as a result our boundaries sometimes are blurred.

One of the biggest lessons I needed to learn in my recovery from teacher burnout was to reframe what “no” actually meant. Remember that by saying no to certain things, you’re saying yes to yourself  and to other opportunities. Reframing the no may be helpful as you embark on  boundary-setting, and so is this little activity from Essentialism:

When opportunities arise, follow this three step process:

Step 1

What is the opportunity being offered to you?

Step 2

What are your minimum criteria for this option to be considered? Make a list of three.

Step 3

What are the ideal criteria for this option to be approved? Make a list of three.

Now look at  your minimum criteria list.  McKeown says, “If the opportunity doesn’t pass the first set of criteria the answer is obviously no.  But if it also doesn’t pass two of your three extreme criteria, the answer is still no.”

By creating a set of standards for when we accept opportunities, we may find it a little easier to say no to things that aren’t fully aligned with our wants and needs in life.

So hopefully this little exercise is a way to start the new school year being a little more selective.  You may want to even take some time this summer to take some “opportunities” through this exercise.  If you find that some of these things don’t tick all of the boxes, perhaps it might be time to let go or “gift” these responsibilities to another teacher who would like to take on these things.

At the very least, it might be a good reminder of the kind of things that you don’t want to say yes to moving forward.  

P.S. If you’re looking for some extra support with prioritizing your own life by saying no to opportunities that may arise, the summer is a GREAT time to start.  Schedule a complimentary clarity call to see if Teacher Wellness Coaching is the right fit for you.