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Since I never set out to create Happy Herbivore (or have this career with Happy Herbivore), I've always had a "react" approach to things.
Happy Herbivore started out as a blog — a little creative outlet for me. When I started blogging in 2007, I had no idea that my blog would turn into one cookbook, let alone 6. Or that those books would become bestsellers and afford me the opportunity to fly around the country doing cooking demos and speaking. Or that I would start selling meal plans and have my own company — Happy Herbivore Inc. with "employees."
I never had a business plan — I never had a plan! So I've always sort of rolled with the punches, taking what's coming at me. When I made the decision to take my "hobby" to the next "career" level, I was eager to take on any opportunity that came my way in hopes that it would grow my business and lead to other opportunities.I always said "yes."I gave more. I did more.
This worked well for me, but as time as wore on, I've found my plate getting fuller and fuller. I started being unable to do everything. I started to feel like I was treading water and then, eventually, drowning.
I went from feeling overworked to actually being overworked. It became hard to do what I'd committed to do. I'd take on too much. I tried to remedy the situation by working even more hours in the day. When that wasn't enough, I found myself skimming the surface. By that point, I doing so much that I couldn't give any one thing my all.I was very dissatisfied with everything — including myself.
Something had to give. That was no longer deniable as I sat in a puddle of tears on the floor being a drama queen and screaming "I can't do it all!" — I really couldn't.
But yet I tried to continue at my insane pace... (sometimes it takes me awhile to accept things after I've admitted them... and admitting them takes a long time too.)
Anyway, I came across this blog post and something finally clicked.
The author wrote, "Now that I’ve stepped back and looked at myself in the big picture, I can see that the things I hold dear are still the same. Yet, if I continue saying yes and wanting more, I cannot possibly hold them all close to me. I am not superwoman. I may have lots of energy and an almost-addiction to 'getting things done,' but I still haven’t discovered the trick to making 34 hours in a day. It’s time to do fewer things and do them better. To come back to center. To put my energy where my priorities lie."
I realized needed to go back to the basics. I needed to go back and focus on what was the most important. What mattered the most: my fans and my work.
Anything that took me away from those two things needed serious consideration. It was secondary.
Once I had my priorities right, it was easy for me to navigate opportunities.
For the first time in 5 years, I started to say no.
I politely declined projects and opportunities that sounded fascinating and fun but realistically, I didn't have time for — certainly not without losing what mattered most.
I spent countless nights worried that people would be mad at me for declining. Maybe they are mad, maybe they aren't, but in the end I've got to focus on my priorities — and what could be more minimalist?
It's okay to recognize you can't do it all. Figure out what you must do and what you can say no to.
This doesn't even have to apply to work. Recently, I was invited to a birthday party. Normally, I would have loved to attend but I'd been traveling for two weeks straight, was exhausted, and really needed to just sit on my couch and pet my pugs. So I declined (but sent a gift). For a while I felt really bad — so bad, in fact, that I called the birthday girl and told her what I'd done. I was thinking she'd hate me. I didn't really have a "good" excuse for missing her birthday. Her response surprised me. "No need to apologize. You were unavailable. Just because you didn't physically need to be somewhere else, doesn't mean you were available. I'd rather you not go than kill yourself. By the way, loved the present!"
So, if you need to, say "no" more :)
[Editorial Note: After reading this post, I realized why this song had been on loop in my head. "I get a little bit bigger, but then I'll admit / I'm just the same as I was / Now don't you understand / That I'm never changing who I am."]