I was a “yes man” far too long. Ask me to be a member of a special committee. “Yes!” Need someone to manage a difficult project. “Hell yes. I’m your guy!” And then… if you didn’t ask, I’d probably volunteer.
The Insidious Need to Be Needed
It’s a sickness. A pathology. Some kind of insidious “need to be needed.” When I’d say, “I’m your guy” I really was your guy. Whatever I chose to do, I’d do well. Like really well.
And my reward would be a plethora of compliments and “way-to-go’s.” I’d feel so good about myself… for about a day or two. Then I’d be off to some other task that no one else could do as well as me. For what? More adulation? What a putz!
How quickly I’d forget all about the stress and pressure those projects demanded of me. I’m a perfectionist with a bit of an anxiety disorder. What was I thinking when I’d take on additional tasks while I was already booked with real work and important commitments?
I’m so glad my readers don’t suffer from this disease. Haha. Yea, right. You all do! That’s why you read this post. It’s for the same reason I write it. To recover sanity. To discover a way to be “at ease” as we try to refocus on the few things that really matter.
Does It Fit Your Life Mission?
My friend is a brilliant painter (I’ve written about her in the past) with a virtually debilitating illness. Yet, she has chosen to rent her own studio and forces herself to paint every stinkin day, in spite of the pain she suffers. (You’ll meet her in an interview soon.)
Last week she called to tell me that she had said “yes” to a group that wanted her to do a “gallery show” in her studio. After talking with them a while she discovered it would require her to do a bunch of work instead of focusing her energy on a major project of several paintings due in October.
“What should I do?” she pondered. “Well,” I told her, “It’s pretty simple. Take into consideration your limited energy and commitments, and write a personal mission/vision for your 2015 work and personal life. When opportunities come your way, anything that fits into that vision gets a “yes.” Anything that doesn’t fit… it’s easy. “No way!” This show doesn’t fit. So, call ‘em and tell ‘em you can’t do it.”
“Yes” would be a good answer. But “No” is a better answer. It is the right answer.
I’m Talking to YOU Too
Obviously, this little tale is not only about my friend and me. Your name is written all over it. It’s a common issue and even more common with those of us committed to making a difference on this planet.
What I’d like to encourage YOU to do is create a better habit of saying “No” when it’s really the better response. Gosh, how about the times you’ve said “Yes” only to discover that you don’t have time and/or energy? As a result, you fail to complete the task or you do a “less than perfect” job of it. That’s embarrassing, even humiliating for us perfectionists.
How To Decide
So… what do you do? How do you know when to say “Yes” and when to say “No?” Here are some principles I’ve learned to consider along the way. I ask…
- Does it fit my vision/mission? This is very important to me. Of late, I’ve become more and more active so I have to make several yes and no decisions. NOTHING is better than evaluating how (or if) an opportunity fits into who I want to be and what I want to do. My mission/vision includes work, family, health, travel, spiritual and personal development, commitments to friends and colleagues.
- Does it fit in my current calendar? I’m busy. And I’m mostly busy with things I like to do or absolutely need to do. Right now in my life, someone else’s project (like becoming a board member) won’t fit into my schedule.
- Does it interfere with my family time? Or does it contribute to the value of my family? My primary roles in life are husband, father, brother, and uncle. (I have no living parents, so “son” is not included.) But those roles are inescapable and vital. They come before any business, professional or vocational role.
- Is it something that could be done as well or better by someone else? I have to be humble enough to admit that I’m not “the only game in town.” There are plenty of people more capable than me that would do the task even better.
- By accepting this new responsibility do I prevent someone else from a growth opportunity or an opportunity they want even more than I do? I live to make people feel better about themselves. That’s my #1 goal in life. By allowing someone else to do an important project I am giving that person the opportunity to succeed and grow and feel better about themself.
There are more reasons, but these are the most important ones for me.
Just Say “No”
I’d like to leave you with an additional powerful thought about saying “NO.” You don’t have to justify WHY you said “No!” We always feel like it’s necessary to tell someone the reason we say no, like we have to make an excuse for it. THIS IS NOT NECESSARY.
Simply, say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.” The end. And if they’re nosy enough to ask why, just tell them, “I’m already committed.” And that’s the truth. You are committed to your vision, your family, and your calendar.
Summing It Up:
In my experience, “no” is probably a better answer than “yes” a whole bunch of the time!