Being a workaholic is a challenge. It becomes the default setting we return to when life gets tricky or you stop focusing on the life you want. The problem with only using your ability to “focus” is that it requires constant effort and it fails to get to the underlying causes which are usually about the our beliefs.

Let me use a different example, but one where there is a very close parallel - Loosing weight.

Our desire to loose weight drives a multi billion pound industry in the Western world. There are thousands of different diets, books, exercise programmes and videos all giving wonderful advice. They are usually telling us what we already know.

Being a healthy weight is just an equation. Take in more calories than you use in physical activity and you are guaranteed to put on weight. Use more calories through physical activity than you eat and you will loose weight. If it is so simple, why are so many people still significantly overweight?

Many people get as far as buying the product and by doing so feel good for a short while because they believe they have at least taken action.

The same principle is true of gym membership. People sign on for a six month or year long membership and buy all the right gear. They go once, or a few times, find it hard or boring, may be pull a muscle and then give up.

Specialized food is available in thousands of different guises - yet more people in the western world are over weight or clinically obese than at any time in history.

We are being bombarded with information, think of all the TV reality shows showing obese people fighting their flab or makeover programmes where people have radical surgery to address the problem. Is it addressing the problem?

When I talk and work with people who are over weight and get to the heart of the matter, with out exception they have a proven track record of being able to lose weight. Indeed many of them have lost their body weight several times over in their lifetime.

The problem does not lie with their ability to lose the pounds. It is about how they feel about themselves and the relationship they have created with food. The issue is how to enjoy food and maintain a healthy weight whilst feeling good about yourself.

How many of you or your close family and friends would recognize the weight cycle below?

Weight Cycle:

*I feel bad about how I look, I must lose weight!

*I need lots of will power - I'll go on a diet

*On a diet - all I can think about is food, it takes over my waking thoughts and most of my conversation outside work

*Lose weight - feel better about me

*Life happens - I find the weight creeps back on as soon as I eat normally or I want to feel valued and happy but I don't - I need comfort so I eat

*The metabolic rate has been altered by being on a diet so I actually put weight on more easily

*I've put weight on again - feel bad about me - what I really need is will power - I need to go on a different diet.

Does it have to be like that?

No - Once clients change their relationship with themselves and they learn to love and appreciate who they are - wobbly bits and all they can start to create a very different relationship to food and to life.

The result is a healthy life style which is easy to maintain in the long term, a better self image and a healthy emotional approach to food. The weight loss might be somewhat slower but it doesn't rely on will power in the same way. They are able to create a life style change which is lasting and doesn't require a huge investment of will power.

The principles about changing your work life balance are no different. If you want true fulfillment and a great work life balance, where you feel in control, you need to look at why you are driven to work such long hours.

Think about the benefits of letting work take over your life.

Think of the costs to your health, your sense of wellbeing, your relationships with family and friends of letting work take over your life. What has it cost you?

Think about the balance between the costs and benefits of continuing with your present life.

Does it serve you in the short term? How about over your life as a whole?

How long are you prepared to keep paying the price?

Are you ready to take control of your life?

Take action now!

So may of us find ourselves agreeing to do things even when it is detrimental to us. Having said "Yes" we find ourselves flying around, stressed and resentful. Creating a great relationship with yourself where you treat yourself as well as you treat others (no better, no worse) is vital for a sense of wellbeing and a truly well balanced life. In this months article we explore the reasons why we give ourselves and our needs a lesser ranking than those of others and consider some strategies to solve the problem.

Having the confidence in our own self worth and the skills to say "No" graciously without causing offence can make a significant difference to the quality of our lives.
Do you find saying "No" difficult? Do you feel that you have a real choice when you are asked to do something you really don't want to do?

If it happens occasionally it is likely to cause some minor irritation or inconvenience which is short lived. But if it has become the way of life it can be extremely damaging to our sense of self worth and in some contexts our health and well being.

There always times when it is appropriate to do things because we want to help or please others, when it is right to do what we are asked by those who have a greater expertise or level of authority. In this context I am talking about an ongoing pattern of saying the opposite to what we really want to do because of something within us, rather than because it is the right thing to do.

There are so many reasons why we say "Yes" even though it is the opposite of what we really want. The circumstances and the motivation for this pattern of behaviour can be vastly different for each person. If you want to change the way you respond you need to work out what is at the heart of your need to respond positively.
Below I have identified some common themes which have come to light during various coaching sessions with clients. It is not an exhaustive list by any means and you may find several of the examples resonate with you:

Low Self Esteem

1) Everyone is more important than me; therefore their needs must be a higher priority.
2) I feel much better about myself when I am doing things for others, even when I ignore my needs to service those of others.
3) I am wary of upsetting other people, if I say no, they will not like me any more.
4) Everyone else knows what they are doing, if I say no it could be the wrong thing to do.
%I feel guilty if I upset anyone - it is easier to say "Yes" rather than feel bad about myself.
5) I'm always the one who gets put upon - it is my role in life

Saying "Yes" To Get Them Off My Back

I can never think of how to say "No" and not upset them. I say "Yes" because at least I have some space …….initially

i))It is just easier to say "Yes" than deal with the fall out - others being cross or disappointed in me. I fear the anger if I upset the person asking, or they'll sulk, nag, withdraw etc.
ii)Saying "Yes" makes me feel good …… to start with. Then I get overwhelmed by how much I have to do because I have taken on too much.

The Person Who Asks Has High Status

a)I wouldn't dream of saying no to my parents / boss what ever they say goes.
b)If I say "No" I'll get passed over for promotion

So What Is The Solution

If your sense of self - worth could do with an overhaul you may find it useful to work with a coach. There is no single solution but some of the following suggestions may be helpful.

Thinking about life in terms of what is fair and equitable may help.
Think about a pair of old fashioned scales, (the sort with a weigh pan on each side). The fair thing is to treat yourself no better OR WORSE than you treat others. Consider each time someone asks you to do something. Weigh it out on your scales. Use that as the measure between "yes" and "No". On balance is it fair and right for you to be asked to do it? If it is - go ahead. If you feel that the balance is tipped against you, then it is probably time to say no, unless there are other factors at work.

Do you measure your own performance by the same criteria as you measure others? If not ask yourself why not?
How do you feel when someone says "No" to you? Does it depend on why and how it is done? Do you stop liking someone simply because they say no? What do you believe about yourself which makes it right to give yourself a harder time? How can you say no gracefully without upsetting the other person.

Remember that the tone of your voice and the body language you use will have an enormous impact on the way the other person interprets your motives. If you have trouble saying "No" in the first place rehearsing different ways to say no which are both friendly and appropriate can help you avoid being caught on the hop.

You don't need to go into great screeds of reasons. Keep it simple and avoid lying as you are likely to be found out which will cause bad feeling.
Having some responses rehearsed so you are not caught on the hop can be really helpful.

Think about the last few times you have said "Yes" and wish you had said "No". Now create the script for how you could have said "No" graciously.

Here are some possible examples.
In The Work Context

"Thanks for thinking of me. I'd love to help but I need to focus on meeting my deadlines, happy to help if those could be pushed back. "

"I'd really like to help but if I were to do that, which of my other priorities should I put on hold."

"I can see how important it is but I simply have no space in the diary to give it the time and attention it deserves. I would hate to let you down or do a poor job."

"Just look at my diary - there is no window of opportunity till ---- I don't think that will fit with your time scale. It would probably be better to ask someone else."

"Look I can't give you an answer at the moment. I need to look at what you require before committing as I hate doing a bad job and wouldn't want to let anyone down."

"I've looked at ___ really carefully and I simply can't see how I can get everything done in the time available."

In The Personal Context

"I'd love to see you but I'm afraid I can't do tomorrow. How about next week?"

"I'm really sorry I can't help on this occasion but if you gave me more notice I might be able to help next time."

"Under other circumstances I would love to help but I'm sorry I can't help."

"I'm stumped - normally - no problem but I'm snowed under at the moment so will have to say no, sorry."

Where the person has high status:

"I really respect / love you very much and the last thing I want to do is upset / disappoint/ let you down but saying "Yes" would mean …..
*I wouldn't have time to do things properly
*I would be doing something I feel is wrong
*It isn't the right thing to do
*Can I suggest ……. as an alternative approach, or
*How can we come up with something which works for both of us?

When You Feel You Have To Fit Clients In

If you find it difficult to say no to clients who want an appointment and find yourself creating a longer and longer working day you may find it useful to block out time with appointments to yourself.

One client I have worked with is self - employed. She found it difficult to say no to her clients but the result was her working very long days. She was exhausted and her health was suffering. She found just saying "No" difficult, Her solution was to create a number of mythical clients. . She went through the diary booking in appointments with them in all appointments after the time she wanted to work.
When clients were demanding about her working late she simply showed them the diary and said - sorry there isn't a space left for those times for months. How about …. Instead.

When you say yes simply to give yourself breathing space...

Several clients used to use this as a management strategy. In the first instance it would work giving them a bit of breathing space, however the relief was short lived. They then had to either find space to complete the task in their already crowded diary or go and say they couldn't do it after all. Both outcomes created stress and had a knock on effect on the way their bosses and colleagues regarded their efficiency and professionalism. An alternative strategy could be to ask the boss politely: I am rather snowed under at the moment. I'm happy to help but I need a steer - which should have the highest priority. I can do a ---- or b----- in the time scale. Which one would you rather.

I'll have to get back to you as I need to look at what I can reasonably do in the time I have available. I'd rather not promise something and then let you down. I'll ring you this afternoon.
With both of these strategies it is important that you are clear about what is a reasonable expectation of you it is not a strategy to be used to avoid doing a fair share of the work.

Author's Bio: 

Gina Gardiner is one of the UK's leading Leadership Coaches.
Gina supports people at individual or organizational level to develop confidence, leadership and people skills. Gina is the author of two books “Kick Start Your Career” and “How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively and is also a Neuro Linguistic Master Practitioner and a qualified coach.
To download her free management