Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed this trend where people choose a word that is going to guide them for the year. In the past, I’ve done resolutions, and I’ve failed miserably at them. Year after year, I’ve struggled to be present in my own life, to lower my stress level, to create more down-time, to take more walks, to spend more time just “being” with my family and friends. Every year I add these things to my list, but this year I decided to take stock in what is keeping me from succeeding. As I look at the list, it’s clear that I’m not struggling with DOING things, I’m struggling with BEING. And when there is a struggle with doing vs. being, the answer is almost always: DO LESS THINGS. So instead of making resolutions, I have one word for the year. NO. It’s not romantic or poetic. It doesn’t look good written on a sunset. It probably won’t be pinned to pinterest. Um, yeah . . . no. But I feel that this word is the key to balance and being present. I need to carve out time. I need to work less. I need to stop saying yes to things, and hold better boundaries for my soul and for my family. Saying no is not an easy task for a freelance writer. When you don’t have a salary, there is a tendency to take whatever work comes your way, because you never know if more work will be available later. Last year, I was terribly unbalanced as a result. This year, I need to say no, even if I make less money. Even if I make a lot less money. Because no amount of money is worth my sanity. It also means I’m going to have to say no to opportunities that look really good on paper. Things I’m passionate about, even. It means I have to say no to requests from people I love, from companies that I like, and for causes that I care about. It means paring down even when I want to say yes. Because too many plates in the air make me feel crazy . . . even if the plates are full of really awesome stuff. As it turns out, you CAN have too much of a good thing. So, this year, I’m learning to say no. I’m one month in and it hasn’t been easy. AT ALL. I’ve said no to some speaking gigs that I would have loved to do. I’ve said no to some involvements with charities I really like. I’ve opted out of trips. I’ve declined invitations to have someone “pick my brain.” I’ve turned down paid work. I struggle with guilt and with people-pleasing, and with worrying that similar offers won’t come my way again. I worry that I’ll burn bridges or seem uncaring or aloof. In fact, so far saying no has been almost as stressful as saying yes. But the pay-off is that I’m finding balance, for the first time in a long time. My head is clearer because I’m not juggling as many things. Saying no means I have the time and brain-space to cultivate the practice of presence. I didn’t need more resolutions. I needed more no. That’s my word for the year.