Banish This Toxic Word From Your Thinking

Banish This Toxic Word From Your Thinking

I was at the beach the other day watching a glorious sunset. Breathtaking.

The waves were gently breaking against the rocks on the beach, the water was aquamarine, there were fluffy clouds in the sky catching the pink light, and flocks of birds were flying somewhere, who knows, to sleep?

A few pelicans were still fishing and would swoop and crash dramatically into the water whenever they saw prey.

Sounds sublime, huh? And yet there I sat, melancholy, and not knowing why.

Then if occurred to me. I was feeling that I ought to be feeling all kinds of spiritual and uplifting emotions. That I was connected, enlightened, with some sort of witchy incantation to the setting sun on my lips. Or standing in some sort of yogic posture with a shamanic fire burning luminously, bidding farewell to the fading day.

No, instead, I was feeling irritated and a bit restless, and annoyed with myself for wasting this beautiful moment. That I ought to be feeling or doing something different.

Ought to. Ought. Roll it around in your head. Is that word ever welcome?

The other day a client was bemoaning the fact that she felt overwhelmed by everything she had to do and it spoilt her joy and wellbeing. She worked on her business from home and had a million ideas and responsibilities that needed to be acted on.

Ever been there?

I remarked that yes, we can be overpowered with too many things to do all at once. And too many things all at once frequently means whatever we are doing, we feel we ‘ought’ to be doing one of the other many things we need to do. We never feel we are doing what we should be doing and the result is frustration about not being good enough, or organized enough, somehow.

On the same beach holiday mentioned above, I was enjoying an afternoon alone on the balcony of our hotel room, reading my kindle, enjoying creative thoughts and making notes. Then suddenly my internal voice pitched up yapping ‘you ought to be down on the beach enjoying it while you’re here! You shouldn’t be doing this stuff when you’re in this lovely setting!’ Dang. There it was again.

Ought, ought, ought. That word trying to wriggle in and spoil my peace of mind. Telling me I’m never doing the right thing—there’s always a million other things that are better, more productive, good for me. Anything but this, Sunshine!

But I caught it this time. Drop kicked it over the balcony and into the sand.

Start noticing if the word ‘ought’ comes into your thinking. It does with me, often. I’m now noticing when I feel I ought to be cleaning the kitchen when I’m sitting on the veranda. Or I ought to be thinking about lunch when I’m working on this blog. Or I ought to be taking the dogs out for a walk instead of whatever I’m doing (now that’s probably true!).

Don’t talk to me about the treadmill. I always ought to be on that.

I’m dropping that word. Or at least taking note when it rears its ugly head. Banishing it. I invite you to join me in this experiment.

Just say no to any oughts that creep in.

Instead, give yourself permission to focus on whatever you’re doing and rebelliously give it your complete attention. Sit and bask in the sunset just for the beauty of it and lounge on the veranda with a book for as long as you like and feel good about it. Have a glass of iced tea and thumb your nose at even the slightest notion that there’s anything better to do.

The irony is you’ll become more productive, more focused, feel more peaceful and able to enjoy whatever you’re doing.

Because that’s what you ought to be doing!



Yes, I Mean No! How to Say No Assertively

Yes, I Mean No! How to Say No Assertively

Do you find it hard, if not impossible sometimes, to refuse a request from someone?

For instance, someone asks you to donate to a charity you don’t even believe in, or serve on committee you’re not interested in, or let’s say a nice person asks you out for the evening but you don’t want to go…and you still say OK? Ack!

“But I can’t say no!” I hear you cry. Yes, you can. Of course you can. You just want to know how to say it, without causing offense, disapproval, or upsetting someone.

The problem is you end up doing things that bring you no joy just in order to please someone else, and you’re frustrated with yourself for not saying what you meant. Also, you’re overwhelmed and don’t have time to do the things you want to do.

If only you had some simple rules and phrases that would allow you to speak your mind in a clear and courteous manner. I’ve got them.

Here are 4 artfully assertive rules and phrases to help you just say no in a way that won’t cause offense or put you in the doghouse.

Rule #1

They have the right to ask; you have the right to refuse.

Don’t get mad because they asked, and don’t make them feel bad for asking.

If you don’t say no, it’s your fault, not theirs for asking. Own it. It’s totally up to you to control your own time and energy.

Rule #2

Always thank them for asking and express appreciation for any polite request.

“Thanks for asking, but that’s not really my thing. I’m going to say ‘no’.”

“Thanks for asking, but that’s not going to work for me. I’m just too busy right now.”

“I really can’t—sorry; I’ve got too much on my plate right now.”

 Rule #3

Don’t over apologize, don’t over explain, don’t make excuses, and don’t get defensive.

They have the right to ask, but they don’t have the right to elaborate explanations or apologies. For the sake of politeness a short sorry, followed by a brief reason, (see above examples, Rule #2) will suffice. You don’t have to justify your decision.

The general rule that keeps me out of trouble is a short ‘sorry’, followed by a brief explanation, combined with a pleasant expression.


Rule #4

Zip it!

Once you’ve said no, don’t repeat yourself, or start apologizing, adding to your story, or yammering away trying to justify yourself. Just be quiet, hold your nerve, and carry on as before. If you have been courteous, then you have nothing to explain.

If you are not awkward, they won’t be. Trust me on this.

Remember these 4 rules next time you are asked for something you don’t feel comfortable with. Honor their right to ask and yours to refuse. Try out these phrases. All my sentences, rules and suggestions are tried and beta tested.

I think you will be delighted with how magically well they work.

If this subject is interesting and relevant to you, there is lots more to enjoy in my book, Artful Assertiveness Skills for Women, available online in Kindle and paperback; if you live in San Miguel, it’s for sale in the Biblioteca bookstore. This easy to read, clear, fun, and concise book could help you in ways you can’t even imagine.

I’d love to hear of your successes! Contact me at and look out for workshops and practice groups on this and similar life coaching subjects.