The Inner Art of
Giving and Receiving"
by Patricia Spadaro

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Clearing Space for What's Important

by Patricia Spadaro

"Know how to withdraw....Do not belong so wholly to others
that you do not belong to yourself."

—Baltasar Gracian

It's that time of year again. Holidays. Obligations. So much to do with so little time.

Do you ever feel that you're rushing around so much that you don't have time to enjoy the joy that's supposed to come with the holiday season?

Why not try a new approach this year? The words of famed management guru Peter Drucker have helped me think about the idea of drawing boundaries in a different way. "Don't tell me what you're doing," he once advised leaders. "Tell me what you stopped doing."

We are all leaders—if not at work, then in our communities, in our families, or in the most important domain: the domain of self. Those who are successful in life and in business choose wisely how to use their time—and how NOT to use it. As the leader of your own life, what you choose to do with your time, energy, and attention will determine whether you will thrive or barely survive.

If you've read my book, Honor Yourself, you know that I like to target the myth, or half-truth, that keeps us stuck and then explore how to turn it into the magic of transformation in our lives. Here's the myth at work here:

Drawing boundaries means I have to leave someone out
(which can be uncomfortable and messy).

Yet all too often, the person who gets left out is you. The truth is:

Drawing healthy boundaries is not about leaving someone else out
but about counting myself in.

Putting the Important Things First

Time management experts tell us that what often gets knocked off our to-do list and edged out of our lives are the things that are most important--the things that create real value in our lives. We tend to deal with urgent matters, emergencies, and pressure from others. Or we take care of the stuff that's quick and easy to get out of the way. But those are not the things that make us feel deeply fulfilled.

At the heart of the issue, like many of the challenges we face in life, is this wise paradox: Saying no, when appropriate, will enable you to say yes to what's really important.

4 Steps to Creating Your End-of-the-Year Resolution

1. What do you want your days from now to the end of the year to be like? The answer will be different for each of us. Do you want to feel energized and active, quiet and reflective, joyful and blessed? What's the one overarching word for the mood you want to create?

2. Take a blank piece of paper and write down three specific things you can do to achieve that mood. Maybe it's being alone for some reflection or meditation. Maybe it's carving out time to go skiing or baking those brownies you used to make with your mother as a child. Perhaps it's volunteering at a local homeless shelter or attending a holiday festival.

3. Now take out the calendar you use for scheduling your time along with your to-do list for the end-of-the-year activities. Slot time in right now for what's most important to you. Those times are non-negotiable. They belong to you. You will dedicate them to doing what is most valuable to you.

4. Finally, force yourself (yes, it will come to that) to cross off three things on your "must-do" list. Will you politely decline the party you always get invited to but no longer enjoy? Decide not to set up those elaborate Christmas decorations that are time-consuming but not crucial? Pay someone to help you get the house ready for guests so you can free up your time?


  • What new choices will you make for how you will spend the last days of the year?
  • What are your priorities?
  • What will you say no to?
  • What will you say yes to?
  • Imagine how you'll feel when you succeed in accomplishing what you wrote down in #2!

Copyright © 2009 Patricia Spadaro

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Myth and Magic

Drawing boundaries means I have to leave someone out.

Drawing healthy boundaries is not about leaving someone else out but about counting myself in.

"If you don't stand for something, you'll stand for anything."
—Ginger Rogers

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