Invoking the NO! Part 2: Guilt is a Lie & Why Boundaries Benefit EVERYONE

Last Monday I posted a blog The Linchpin of ALL Success—Invoking the NO! and I appreciate all the comments. Today I want to address some of what to expect when we make the decision to Invoke the NO, because when we are prepared for what likely WILL happen, we:

a) Will be calmer because we anticipate any attacks.

b) Can make an action plan.

c) Are able to arm ourselves with truth, which will cut away the lies we’ll will hear (from others but also from ourselves).

Why Invoke the No?

First of all, if you missed it, hope you will check out the first post on this. But let me lay it down for you this way to make the necessity of NO very clear.

Back in a time long ago before Amazon, HBO and Netflix, humans learned piling rocks around where they lived and slept was a primo plan for keeping out predators and bad guys.

In fact (in large part due to the lack of Netflix and HBO) humans dedicated a lot of time, energy and thought into better ways to do this rock-piling-thing.

At first they called it Fred, but that didn’t evoke the emotion they wanted to convey and thus Fred became “Wall”, which sounded a tad more intimidating.

Don’t argue. It’s “history.”

Anyway, walls became a HUGE deal. Cities who had them prospered. In fact, the bigger and better the wall, the MORE respect the city garnered from those around them.

Humans who dwelled in places with no walls had a far higher fatality rate due to invaders (human and animal variety), and their life spans were roughly 50.7% lower than those who dwelled inside the protection of a wall.

Those with no wall who did NOT die, had an 89% greater chance of slavery and reported a 99% lower “life satisfaction” rating.

According to my completely fictional yet historically “accurate” statistics, a person had a 76% greater chance of being devoured alive by a lion OUTSIDE a wall compared to those dwelling inside.

Outsiders knew better than to %$# with cities with high walls. Namely because %$#ing with people with high walls involved a 123% greater chance of having boiling oil, fiery arrows and diseased animals tossed on you from above.

Thus any strategist with the IQ higher than an eggplant could see that conquest, exploitation, and general naughtiness had a far higher success rate when no wall was involved.

Thus by analyzing the historical and scientific data one can hopefully see a clear pattern.



Shall We Mention Gates?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of chelmsfordblue

All great walls ALSO needed gates, which was why Og (the one who first came up with plans for a Fred), was promptly fired—as in literally set ON fire—when Og left out a simple but apparently vital detail—a way to get in and out of this new thing known as the newly renamed WALL.

****Upon later review the elders decided to deal more kindly with engineers and “firing” didn’t necessarily have to involve actual fire.

While walls were awesome for keeping out invaders, predators and door-to-door salesmen they also kept out vital ingredients for staying alive, like food, fresh water, and supplies.

Thus gates became an integral and critical part of the wall…but were ALSO fortified in new and improved ways over the ages. My resources indicate the portcullis was the brainchild of one too many family get togethers gone horribly wrong #RedWedding.

What Does this WALL Stuff Mean for ME?

From the beginning of time, those who lacked a boundary were preyed upon and enslaved to the agenda of others. This has not changed.

When we fail to set boundaries (a wall) others won’t respect us and we open ourselves up to being chained to the needs, wants, desires and drama of others.

No, we might not get ripped apart by lions, but the PTA is a close enough comparison.

If we previously did NOT have a wall, then decided to build one….

Those who’ve benefitted from taking what they wanted and shackling us to their whims will NOT be happy. Expect this. If we’ve trained others to treat us like a never ending vending machine (though note vending machines are paid money), these folks are NOT going to rejoice when we cut off their unlimited supply lines into OUR resources and energy reserves.

Thus today I am tossing down the gauntlet:

We can be popular or powerful.

Invoking the NO is building a wall, but any superlative wall design also comes with a fortified gate. We can allow folks in and out at appropriate times, meaning no we don’t serve 24 hour Make You Happy Meals.

Those who respect our time, energy, and resources can come and go and get all the goodies that go with honoring boundaries. Those who refuse to get with the plan?

Boundaries Benefit Everyone

Seriously, they do! Anything worth having is generally not easy. Boundaries and Invoking the NO! are hard but the rewards are priceless. How?

#1—Boundaries prevent conflict.

Why? Because there is a clear line. Like my house has doors and a stranger wandering into my house is legitimately viewed a home invader.

If, however, I dwelled in a lawn chair sheltered by a pool umbrella in the middle of a field, a passerby would have no idea he/she was crossing a boundary. Thus, me shouting I was a victim of a home invasion would be a tough sell.

Too many of us are being worn out over drama and conflict and being pulled at, yet we’re the person dwelling in a lawn chair with a pool umbrella. Sure we want to be angry at the intruder, but we actually are at fault for failing to make the boundary clear in the first place.

Set the boundary and we save precious time, energy and resources with a simple addition of clarity. Refuse to fight battles that can easily be prevented in the first place 😉 .

#2—Boundaries help others grow (up).

When we do for others what they are able to do for themselves, we stagnate their growth and can benevolently cripple them. Our “helping” weakens the other person’s ability to grow, mature and develop their capacity to handle and triumph over life’s troubles.

And it also wears us the hell out.

And sure, maybe the “offending party” is trying to offload something they can’t do for themselves, but if we step in and do it for them, they never have to dig deep and hustle to learn on their own.

Also (if you’re anything like me) for a long time I was stepping in and “fixing stuff” that only was broken because those around me made bad decisions…and KEPT making them *growls*

If I kept intercepting, protecting them from consequences of their own poor decisions, how were they supposed to learn to make BETTER decisions?

Like maybe you (my child) should not have waited until the night before the big science project was due to start working on it. #SucksToBeYou

#3—Boundaries force us to eschew what is easy and reach for what is best.

Many of the commenters on the last post expressed guilt over Invoking the NO particularly in regards to children. As a mother myself? I totally get it!

We often do hear the:

You are writing? OMG. You’re a terrible mother for not instantly fulfilling an impromptu order for a sandwich and Goldfish!

THIS is what your kids are going to tell their future (court-appointed) therapist. THIS is why they had no choice but to abduct hitchhikers…to fashion their OWN Mommy out of body parts.

Because YOU WERE NOT THERE! #MommyDearest #TheGoldfishMadeMeDoIt #Neglect

Here’s the deal, our job as parents aside from the whole food and shelter thing, is to train up healthy well-adjusted and kind adults.

If they cannot SEE it, they cannot BE it.

If all our kids see is Mommy (or Daddy) running around like a one-legged man at an @$$-kicking contest, people pleasing to the point of exhaustion…odds are we’re training our children to grow into one of two kinds of adults—doormats or users.

Either they will have no clue how to set a boundary because they’ve never witnessed this phenomenon in practice. OR they will learn boundaries aren’t worthy of honoring and anyone trying to enforce one a) doesn’t really mean it so keep nagging or b) they are personally attacking them by not instantly catering to their needs.

***Granted this is a broad spectrum, but still. Food for thought 😉 .

If we’re demonstrating to our kids that our goals and dreams aren’t worth protecting, how will they know (practically) how to protect their goals and dreams once they are adults?

We certainly weren’t hit in the head with a self-discipline magic wand, why would they?

And also, especially with children (but also friends, family, organizations) we can show them that we are saying NO to a frittering meaningless kind of engagement. This opens more time for the meaningful and memorable YES.

Like when Spawn leaves me alone to write and I get my work finished THEN I have time to go play with him at the park and be fully present. Thus my son (hopefully) learns the benefits of delayed gratification…BY EXAMPLE.

For instance, last week Spawn wanted me to hang out and watch Ninjago, but I needed to finish two major edits (WAY less fun than watching Ninjago), but alas I put a boundary….but then the REWARD!

Dunno, I think this time with Mommy playing her workout playlist for him to swing to is probably a memory that will have greater resonance.

We have to remember that kids (and adults) often won’t pay attention to what we SAY but will almost always pay attention to what we DO. When we say what we mean and mean what we say, this builds mutual respect (remember the wall–>respect thing?). Our words mean more because we are invoking the editor’s creed: SHOW DON’T TELL.

And yes it is HARD…at first. But it gets easier with practice and if we hope to be successful in ANYTHING, we gotta nail this boundary-setting thing.

Especially writers, since too many folks seem to think we don’t have a “real job.” Well, maybe they are thinking that because of OUR actions.

If we drop everything to cater to others, that is NOT a real job.

No brain surgeon goes…”Sorry, I have to leave the O.R. My kid forgot his essay at home, so can you keep the patient stable for say an hour?”

No lawyer leaves a courtroom in the middle of a case to go pick up her mother’s dry cleaning.

Y’all get the gist.

What are your thoughts? Have you been taking the Invoke the NO! Challenge? Tell us your successes! Where you struggle. Maybe we can talk it out, war game some strategies? Do you struggle with discerning “helping” from “enabling”? I certainly do, but I am a work in progress TOO!


What do you WIN? For the month of September, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also in the spirit of making yourself a priority, I highly recommend you sign up for one of our upcoming classes listed below. ****Note, those who subscribe by email, the visual gallery doesn’t show, so please click through and sign up! We look forward to seeing you and serving you in class! Helping you with boundaries and working smarter, not harder 😀 .

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    • Laurie Mac on September 26, 2017 at 11:28 am
    • Reply

    Even on a very bad day like today, you can still make me laugh. Thank you.

  1. I needed this reminder today. Thank you.

  2. Boundaries must be in the air, because I literally posted about this last Thursday: (And I hadn’t read your last Monday’s post yet.)

    My post was in response to a book I read a couple of weeks ago, “Boundaries” by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. Their version was not as entertaining as yours was, Kristen, but still powerful. In fact, that is probably one of the top ten most life-changing books I’ve ever read. You clearly don’t need help with understanding the power of boundaries. (I didn’t so much either, but I did need help letting go of the guilt I experienced when I set them, and fear of angry retaliation.) Anyone who might be struggling with either setting boundaries or the same fears as I was when you do, though, check out my post and consider whether reading the book might be a good investment of your time.

    Boundaries are fundamental to health, happiness, and success in all areas of life. Thanks for posting about this, Kristen.

    1. It’s one of those books where you end up making a list of People Who Need To Read This before you even get to the end, I found.
      Excellent post, Kristen – thanks!

      1. I agree. My copy is already in circulation. 🙂 I bought a Kindle version for myself in case I want to re-read before the borrowers are finished with it. 🙂

  3. My husband has a saying he uses at work: “Piss-poor planning on your part doesn’t constitute a major emergency on mine.” This is generally said when someone forgets to order a laptop or setup network access for a new employee and wants him to drop everything and do it NOW. He has to set boundaries like this otherwise he’d get none of his assigned work done. Fortunately, his boss backs him up in cases like this.

    I try to emulate his example but I fail miserably. I’m not good at consistency at all. It’s something I continue to work on.

  4. I think you hit it on the head.

    I’ve been having issues with a friend lately and your boundaries theory is really resonating with me.

    And it’s also dead on with the problems of being an author when others don’t respect that. 🙂

  5. Kristen, chuckling at this post’s historical beginning to set up the personal “boundary” part.
    The image, “dwelling in a lawn chair with a pool umbrella in the middle of a field” made me laugh! I’m old enough to have set concrete boundaries (involving the NO) to help three generations of family members continue to grow (up). I say to anyone, “Take the Invoke the NO Challenge and don’t feel guilty!” Christine

    1. Oops..(invoking the NO).

  6. Loved your “statistics “.

    Still trying to figure out the boundaries with kids. There’s already a lot of guilt when you work a full-time day job. Not an excuse, just a reality.

  7. Thanks for the laugh tonight! Great reminder for Invoking the NO at home with my XY twin tween spawns!

  8. You are right. Any self-respecting author has to create boundaries, and say “no” not just to other individual requests, but to carve out boundaries of time when writing takes top priority. I read yesterday that creativity comes in the midst of routine, not outside it. We sit down, we write at specific times and our creative side knows that it’s time to work. Deadlines help us stay focused and our creativity flourishes, butI guess that’s something for another post.

  9. Thanks for the support. I’ve been working on my “No’s” and making progress, but not there yet. Most recently, I issued a stern ultimatum after a BFF once again needed a getaway and stayed at my house for 4 days only one month after I told her I needed uninterrupted time to finish my WIP. In the warning, I listed every interruption I would not respond to until my book was finished. Then I started getting messages: Are you done yet? When will you be finished? Are you home on Friday? My mom wants us to take her on a trip. do we want to meet them for dinner, or would it be easier to cook at my house? What?????? My reply: No. And I’ll let you know when I’m open for business again. There are some very nice, inexpensive hotels nearby. You are right, I trained my people to use me. Now I have to untrain them.

  10. It’s like you reached into my head and my heart and extracted everything I ever wanted to say but didn’t know how real words work. As a direct descendant of Og, I thank you. Deeply. I’m sharing this with my entire tribe.

    • Laurie Logan on September 28, 2017 at 12:38 pm
    • Reply

    I get the baby down for a nap and think I’ll have at least an hour and a half for writing then I get a text from my husband asking me to call the insurance company and get on the internet to order more checks as we’re almost out, or my daughter will call from work asking how her baby is doing, or my mother-in-law will need help in the garden or painting.I do have trouble saying no.

    1. Put phone in Airplane Mode.

        • Laurie Logan on September 28, 2017 at 5:48 pm
        • Reply

        Good idea 😀

  11. When I first started writing, I had very clear “NO” boundaries for my children (ages 8 & 10). That worked until my son said, “What’s more important, your writing or your son?” Hard to argue with that logic.
    p.s. He left me alone for the most part and when he did come down to my next-to-the-furnace desk, we had great conversations.

    1. I didn’t have my son say that to me, but it was a question in my own mind. I didn’t want my son to grow up and his memories of Mom were her being “busy” and that writing was more important than him. The great negotiation is that we can have both. Allow Mommy to work X amount of time uninterrupted THEN we can do have a meaningful FUN time together where I am fully present instead of my “time” propelled by guilt and threaded with worry of all I need to still accomplish.

      Mothers often bend more than the Karma Sutra to accommodate others and that’s not good for us or others. And often what we are accommodating is the mundane and forgettable fluff that won’t forge authentic and powerful bonds. So we are trading the easy (low-hanging fruit) for the good stuff :D.

    • Dominique Blessing on October 1, 2017 at 9:07 am
    • Reply

    Hail to the NO! My widowed, retired mother is my worst time thief, and she usually calls during the precious writing time I set aside on my day off between household duties and picking up teen son from school. I used your advice about airplane mode, and she was bothered that I didn’t answer her calls. She wanted to know how to get ink out of a blouse–something she could’ve Googled. (And,yes, she does know how to Google.) I felt relaxed and productive, because you can’t be published if you don’t finish something to publish

    1. Yeah we totally need awards, t-shirts and stickers for this! GO YOU! *happy dance* *does really superlative cabbage patch dance moves*

  12. Funny as heck, Kristen. Point well taken and reinforced with laughter. 🙂

  1. […] via Invoking the NO! Part 2: Guilt is a Lie & Why Boundaries Benefit EVERYONE — Kristen Lamb […]

  2. […] down we KNOW we’re being foolish by never letting up on the gas pedal. Can’t we just learn to invoke the NO? Why do we promise to set boundaries, only to one day wake up with nothing […]

  3. […] Oh, and we’ll need to learn to invoke the NO. […]

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