I write a lot about the importance of saying no, and it is important. Some of us (myself included) have a bad habit of saying yes way too much. We say yes without thinking, without checking our calendar, without really considering if saying yes is really the best thing for us (or even for the person we are saying yes to).
The last few months have been a real test of my ability to choose the right times to say “yes” or even the right times to say “no”. As you may have read, my mom was diagnosed with cancer early last spring. I’m happy to say that she’s now finished chemo and her CT Scan was completely cancer free. My mom is one of the very few people in the world that I would drop everything for, and I did that several times in the last few months. These were times when saying “no” just wasn’t an option. The appointment where we found out mom had cancer I’d not planned to go with her. We actually thought it was just a follow-up from a surgery. I didn’t expect the “c” word (evidently my mom did). I had initially planned but we got our dates confused so on the date she actually had the appointment I had several calls scheduled with potential clients for Chronic Illness Bloggers. But, when mom called me up and said she really wanted me there. I couldn’t say “no”. I quickly emailed my customers and let them know I needed to reschedule and went with my mom. This actually ended up happening several times over the summer.
As mom’s treatment grew to a close I knew I needed a get-away. So, I talked with my best friend and we had decided that we’d take a trip after mom finished her treatment. We scheduled it for the last weekend in October. We were both penciled in with the knowledge that a lot of things could happen. But, we’d both said “yes” because it was something we both really wanted and needed. Unfortunately, at some point (I can’t recall if it was before or after we made these plans) I decided it would be really good for me to attend the Business Boutique event in Nashville. I checked my calendar for the weekend and it was all clear. What I didn’t look at was the weekends before or after. The event landed the week right after our girls getaway. Suddenly I was left wondering what I was thinking. I just planned back-to-back trips?! Now, cap that off with one more out of town event the following weekend (just for a night though). All, because I said yes without really thinking.
Now, once I realized what I’d done I could have backed out of any of those trips. My best friend totally would have understood if I’d said “you know I have this other event for work, and I really just can’t do two trip back-to-back.” But, did I say that? Nope. Because I really wanted that girls getaway and I didn’t want to risk it not happening at all. My husband spent the few days I was home after that getaway trying to convince me to skip the Business Boutique event because he didn’t feel I had the energy to manage it (I was dead after the girls getaway). But, I rested as much as I could during those few days and I went. I had an amazing time but I did have to take breaks, bail out early one day, and do what I could to manage my energy. Thankfully, I left that event tired but inspired. And, I didn’t wake up dead the first day back home.
So when is saying “no” not an option?
- When you really are the only person who can help – when it comes to my mom I’m the closest (physically and in many ways emotionally) to her. So, when it comes to going to a dr appointment where she might get bad news or running over to take her meds because she’s sick, or even just dropping everything to hug her because she’s having a terrible day. I’m going to be that person who says “yes” every time because I’m the (only) one who can.
- When you are saying “yes” to what you value most – In all of the examples above what I said yes to (my mom, the girl’s getaway, the business trip) were all things that valued more highly than what I had to say “no” to (the clients, the work I might have gotten done, the extra rest). Each situation is unique so in each situation you have to examine what’s most important.
- You feel absolutely compelled to say yes – as if from a higher power. You aren’t sure why but you just know that you have to say yes to this person/ opportunity/ invitation/ etc. Perhaps saying “no” would result in missing out on the most important opportunity of your life. Of course, if you say “no” you’ll never know. While we’d like to think we often feel compelled in this way, the truth is that it’s really rare. But, we have to be in tune with ourselves and the universe to know if this is happening. Are you really feeling compelled? Or are you feeling guilted? (sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference).
- You honestly can’t come up with a single reason to say “no” – this is also rare, but it happens. In those moments when it happens the universe has given you a gift (an easy “yes”). How often in life does it really happen that we really don’t have to make a decision because there’s no decision to be made?
Very few times really fall into the above categories. Most of the time we can’t be absolutely sure right off that we are the only person who can do the job, and chances are there are other things that we’d rather do or that are more important to us. So, we have to do a few things and ask a few questions before we say yes, to make sure that “yes” is the best answer.
Unfortunately, too often we get into the habit of saying “yes” and before long we don’t even think about what we are saying yes to.