Learning Limits

Do you struggle to accept limits and make choices? If so, here are some techniques that might help:

Ponder: Know who you want to be.
Imagine a week of your life that feels healthy and balanced. What do you envision? Are you making dinners? Working out? Spending time for God? Now choose the top three things that feel important to you. Write them down somewhere prominent so they are in front of you. It’s important not to choose too many at once—that would overwhelm you.

Prioritize: Know your yeses and nos.
Now that you have a sense of what’s most important to you, you can create a yes/no meter. The next time you face a scheduling decision, use this default sentence: “When I say yes to _______, I am saying no to _______.”
For instance, during a busy season of writing for this book, I had to choose between early morning workouts or quiet time to write. I said to myself: I feel called to write this book as a priority for this season. In order to say yes to writing, I’ve said no to running with a friend for the next three weeks. Prioritizing your yeses makes you more aware of the choices you are making and reminds you of your limits. It places the responsibility for your schedule back where it belongs—on you. It empowers you to also say no to something when you realize the impact it would have on your priorities.

Prepare: Create a default statement.
In order to stick to your priorities, you need an escape method for decisions that want to break through your boundaries. Have a sentence at the ready that allows you to default a decision. When asked to take on a new responsibility, don’t say yes right away. Instead say something like, “I’ll have to check my schedule and get back to you.” This allows you time to think before you act.

Practice: Form the letters n-o.
If you struggle with your no, start small. The next time a salesperson asks you to consider buying more, simply say, “No, thank you.” Don’t make an excuse or give the person any room to continue the conversation. That will make it easier to say no the next time an acquaintance or even a friend asks you to do something that would exceed your limits. Again, politely say no. Don’t make excuses, tell a story, or make it emotional. All of those answers sound like “no, but maybe” instead of “no, not ever.” Once you’ve practiced in small ways, step it up and try it with a bigger decision.

If you keep living like you can be everything to everyone, you’ll miss the opportunity to be uniquely you—just one someone, one special masterpiece that God has gifted and equipped for the work He’s called you to do. Our calling displays our great capacity, and our limits remind us of our fragility. By embracing the boundaries God’s given us and the speed limits to our soul, we are able to move forward with boldness and freedom in God’s “yes” for our life.

Nicole Unice

Nicole Unice is a counselor and author of She’s Got Issues and Brave Enough. She is the ministry director at Hope Church in Richmond, Virginia and wife to Dave and mom to three fabulous kids, age 7-12.