The other day I saw a notice on a community bulletin board about boulevard plantings. There’s been a bit of a dust-up in my small town since city leaders decided that all plantings on the boulevards have to go: no flowers, shrubs, bushes, rocks—everything has to be pulled out. A group of residents is committed to working to get a more reasonable stance negotiated with the city.
If you can’t say, "Hell, yes!" try "Hell, no!"
And I started thinking. “Oh, I could help with that. I could help draft language and help meet with the city leaders and help formulate a workable plan with these other good folks willing to step forward. I care about this; my neighbors and my mom have great boulevards and they’re worth preserving. Besides, my philosophy is that more plants are better.”
All of which is completely true. But recently, I’ve been trying something new when I’m about to plunge into another commitment. I’ve been using this handy new phrase that a friend of mine told me about and that I’ve adopted. It’s a great decider.
It goes like this: If your answer isn’t “Hell, yes!” then it hasto be “Hell, no!”
This clever, simple little phrase is transforming my thinking about how I do things. Of course there are a million things that are worth doing. But I can’t do everything I want to do so I’ve got to pick the ones that matter most.
I won’t be working on the boulevard work. Even though it is important. Even though I believe in it. Even if my mom’s boulevard has to change.
Alas, I have to constantly remind myself of the finite number of hours and limits of energy in a single day. Does anyone else have to do this so regularly? And in a moment when I’m about to jump in with an email, or a phone call, or when I’m asked to do something, I can do a gut check: Is this a “Hell, yes!”? Because there are plenty of those.
This is one of the reasons that organizations benefit from strategic planning: you lay out all the millions of things that you want to do, and then you start the difficult work of finding the themes and coming up with just a few key, overriding plans or strategies. Everything you do day-to-day fits under the category of one of the strategic planning points.
Most of us regular people can benefit from going through the same kind of planning. It’s so easy to get pulled into work and fun and thinking and doing that doesn’t really support our reasons for being here. And if we’re doing work other than our own most important work, our own most important work doesn’t get done.
Because no matter how good you are at juggling and making the best of every moment, there are some realities that we all live within: there remain 24 hours in a day. The days quickly pass into weeks, months, years, and then, a life lived. We get a short time here together to do some things. I want to make my time count every single day.
For me, that means loving my kids and giving them the best support I can, loving my friends and family and people I meet, and helping connect people to themselves and to better ways to live. Everything I do falls under these few ideas. My key ideas are broad and can encompass everything from working to change the food system, to working to alleviate poverty and internal family strife, to helping families grieve death well, to making pizza and ice-cream sundaes on a Friday night. All in a day’s work.
There will be, for me and people like me, always more that pulls me than I can actually do. So I’ll pause before I react with a simple “yes.” Gotta make sure it’s a “Hell, yes!”