When an opportunity comes up, my gut reaction is usually to say yes. Without even thinking about it. Why? Because I’m a facilitator by nature. I’m an activator, an achiever and a maximizer. If you aren’t familiar with these StrenghtsFinder terms, let me just tell you they can be a lethal combination.
Lethal because not only am I goal-oriented, but also I’m all about getting shit done (no resting on your laurels here) — and getting it done in the most efficient way.
Definitely some pros to that combo, but also some cons. Namely: I can see the potential in any project, and I can visualize the best (most efficient) way to accomplish the goal. When I see others struggling with whatever it is they are working on, I instinctively want to help. I want to jump in and say, Oh, here all you have to do is x/y/z.
The con? I have a tendency to do this for everything that comes across my desk. Not very (ahem) efficient. Or sustainable. Or healthy. It has happened more than I can count: I over-commit, get myself involved in too many things, then have to back out. Which I hate. It such a horrible feeling to renege on your word, isn’t it? There is almost nothing that makes me feel more guilty. I hate letting people down. I hate leaving them hanging. But there is one problem with this:
Guilt is self-centered.
Guilt is me basically telling myself that whoever it is that I’m “letting down” needs me so badly that they won’t succeed without me, that no one else is capable of filling my shoes. And the truth is, I am not that important.
Not only that, but also I have come to a place in my life where I do have to start thinking about my health and taking care of myself more than taking care of other people’s problems. If I’m expending so much energy helping everyone else and I have nothing left to work on my own project, or even just to socialize with friends or relax with my husband, then I’m really just hurting myself. And when I spread myself too thin, I’m not giving my best to the people I’m trying to help anyway.
So I am working on saying no. And I am working on resigning gracefully.
Saying no means that I can give myself more fully to the projects that are most important to me and that I’m taking care of myself. Click to Tweet.
Here are 4 questions that help me determine when I should say no:
- Am I the only person in the world who can solve the problem? If I answer this question in the affirmative then I’m giving myself too much importance. I’m the only person in the world who can solve the problem. Really? The chances are no, not really. It just seems like that in the moment. The opportunity presents itself; the problem hasn’t been solved today and I have the activator/achiever/maximizer combo that makes me think, Oh, sure, I can help get this done. But if the answer is, No I’m not the only person in the world who can solve this problem, then I should say no to the commitment. And if I say no, then I am leaving room for someone else to come along and fill that need. There’s no reason for me to hog every project.
- Is it something I want to do? Asking this question is important because there is a difference between the ability to do something and the desire to do something. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should. When meetings for that organization come up, will I look forward to them or dread them? If I’m honest and the truth is that I will dread those meetings every time, then the answer to whether I want to do it is no. And in that case (you know where I’m going), I should say no to the opportunity, because continuing to participate will eventually become burdensome and, ultimately, draining.
- Is it going to energize me? Similar to question 2, when I participate in things that I want to do, those activities will energize me, not drain me. I recently resigned from a commitment. I was participating in two different organizations, and I left meetings from one completely drained and meetings from the other totally energized. The difference was such a contrast that I had to ask myself, why do I keep forcing myself through this when one is something I dread, and I’d rather put that time and attention into the other? If the opportunity doesn’t energize me, then I should pass.
- Am I saying yes out of obligation? I’m talking here about random projects and opportunities that come along and are entirely optional. Do I feel obligated to say yes because it’s my best friend asking and I don’t want to hurt her feelings? Or my boss asking and I don’t want him to think less of me? Or my mom asking and I don’t want to feel guilty for letting her down? Contributing out of undue obligation can lead to resentment and potential neglect of the commitment. Then I’m harming not only myself (because I’ve taken on something I shouldn’t have), but also the others committed to the project (because I’m not holding up my end of the deal). Not to mention that the longer I continue without resigning, I’m risking my own reputation. This is no bueno. Obviously we know what I should do, hence the aforementioned resignation.
These questions sure make it sound more simple than some decisions really are. It’s definitely been a humbling experience for me lately because I have to admit to myself, and to others in my life, that no, in fact I am not Wonder Woman. In fact, I cannot do everything. In fact I am a human being just like everyone else with some serious limitations to my physical, mental and emotional bandwith.
For now I am making a concerted effort to pay attention to why I agree to do things and to the purpose they serve (or don’t serve) in my life. Are they contributing to my life as much as I am contributing to the cause? If not, then it’s probably time to reevaluate and maybe it’s even time to say no.