“Excuse me sir, may I have a minute of your time?” I could hear the words echo under the covered awning next to the hardware store I was walking out of. As my grip tightened on my bag of home improvement goods, my breathing rate accelerated under my mask. I had to make a decision. Was I going to give this person time in my life or not? I had no idea what he wanted. Who knows? Maybe I was going to be the next Publisher’s Clearing House millionaire. Maybe he had a kid on a select sports team, and they were trying to raise money to attend a tournament. Regardless of the cause, I had about half a second to answer this question – Does he get access to me? “No thank you,” I replied. “Have a nice day.” I could hear him mutter something under his mask as I stepped off the curb and headed to my car. While he may have been offended, I felt great. My daughter turned and said to me as we got in the car, “Dad, why did you ignore him?” “I didn’t ignore him honey. I answered his question. Not everyone has the same access to your dad that you do.”
Accessibility is a major opportunity for a more purposeful and meaningful life. Most people are too accessible. Let me illustrate what I’m talking about. Let’s say a couple is out to dinner. They’ve gotten away from the kids and settled into a quiet restaurant for some good food and great conversation. Just as the sharing begins, a screen lights up on a phone sitting on the table. Instinctively, the husband reaches down, picks up his phone, and starts trying to briefly scan a work email while listening to his wife describe her day. While his oversized thumbs craft a reply, his wife stops talking. With a lag time of about ten seconds, the husband, realizing his wife has stopped talking, looks up from his phone and says, “Sorry honey, this will only take a minute.” News flash – you’re too accessible to your job. I don’t want to hear about how busy work is and how they count on you in the clutch and how you have to respond or else. The truth is you’ve given your career unlimited access to you and priority over your spouse.
What about the hyper-driven mom/wife who likes to be part of everything going on. For her, one scroll down Instagram lane is a social calendar waiting to be filled. She’s got the family booked for dinner on Friday night, kids are playing three sports, so Saturday is jam packed. Saturday night is a friend’s birthday and Sunday is gospel brunch with more friends as well as an afternoon playdate for the kids. What’s the priority? For mom, it could be not missing out. It could also be not wanting to hurt people’s feelings by saying no. Her relationships have little hierarchy, so most are given similar weight. She’s simply too accessible to everyone, leaving almost no time for herself.
So, how do we address accessibility in a way that brings the most peace and harmony to our lives? We prioritize relationships and learn to say no. All people should not have the same access to you. There are acquaintances, bosses, co-workers, extended family members, and distant friends that shouldn’t have the same access to you as your spouse, family, and closest friends. That doesn’t mean no access, it means different access. And learning to say no establishes that boundary. Saying no could just mean not replying to a message until the next day. When you re-establish boundaries, prepare for confusion and possible conflict. Stand your ground. Be loving but firm. It’s not about being unavailable, it’s about becoming more available for the things that matter most in your life. Your margin for ‘yes’ is determined by your capacity for ‘no.’ You’ll have more time to enjoy the relationships that have the highest priority in your life by putting in boundaries for those that don’t. A Spiritually Fit life is one of sacrifice and focus. Accessibility may just be the key to your next big breakthrough.
Questions for reflection:
Do you find yourself saying yes to more than you should? What about the opposite?
Does saying no to someone mean a loss of connection for you?
Does anyone or anything have too much access to you?