• Patrick McAndrew

The Problem With Always Saying Yes

In my last article, I discussed 5 Ways To Defend Our Time. It’s crucial keeping these things in mind, but, oh, it’s so easy to forget.

We live in an age where, for most of us, opportunities are abound. There is this job and that project and this hobby and that activity that present themselves in plain view. If you are anything like me, you will find some sort of value in it and justify the reason you are involved in said job, project, hobby, or activity. “Oh…well it’s helping me in this way!” you may argue. Or, “Why sure, it doesn’t do this, but it does do that!”

While seeing the positive value in something is an admirable trait, it can be an incredibly difficult slope. Every, single “opportunity” that comes your way can be a tempting offer to take, but the problem is that many distractions are in fact disguised as opportunities. We then justify our taking this “opportunity” by finding the inherent value in it, even if there tends to be more negatives about it.

Think of a person in a terrible relationship. Things can be going south and everything is pointing to the fact that this is a relationship that needs to end, but one or both parties will cling to the one or two positives about staying together, while remaining completely oblivious to the real opportunities that can open up in their lives if they just let go, if they just left space for those opportunities to enter.

We have a hard time saying no and, therefore, usually say yes. We don’t want an opportunity to pass us by. The problem is, however, that the more we say yes, the less opportunities come our way. Why is this the case? Because we are not allowing for the space for those good opportunities to be pursued. We are filling our schedules with things we think we are supposed to be doing, instead of leaving our schedules open for opportunities that can truly make a difference in our lives.

This is most certainly a balancing act. We don’t want to say no to everything either, or else we will never get to where we want to go. But we mustn’t say yes to everything unless we want to yield the same results as saying no all the time. In saying yes too often, we spread ourselves too thin.

To use another analogy, think about climbing up a ladder. If we keep our bodies narrow and focused on each rung of the ladder, we will climb up pretty quickly. However, the wider we spread our bodies, it will become increasingly more difficult, and eventually impossible, to climb the ladder effectively. Sure, you can become a jack of all trades, but you will be a master of none.

While it’s great to dabble from time to time in our early years as we figure out what we want to pursue, it is crucial that this wideness narrows into a more specific focus. And I believe this is why so many of us have a problem with saying yes all of the time; we aren’t certain of what we want to do. We put a lot on our plates so as to develop a greater focus of what we want, but often to no avail. We then end up caught in the middle of a tightrope while holding multiple items. In order to successfully cross, we must drop some, or even most, of those items, or else we will surely fall to our death before making it to the other side.

Setting priorities in our lives is crucial. What kind of life do we want to be living? What kind of work do we want to be doing? These can seem like daunting questions, but they are critical to answer. This isn’t to say that we can’t change course along the way; we most certainly can, but we must decide on one, maybe two, things, and not be juggling four, five, or six different commitments.

Ask yourself what fuels you. Most of the time, our heads are stuck in a tizzy (justifying the value, remember?), but our bodies will always tell us the truth. I had a theatre professor who would say, “The body never lies.” If you take a moment to be present with yourself, your gut will guide you to which jobs or projects you should let go of and which ones you should stick the course with.

We are the only ones living our lives. While we may be close to our families, our friends, and our spouse, it is up to us to decide what we are going to do with our lives. We can’t be afraid of saying no because we think it will let someone down. We can’t be afraid of saying no because we think we are supposed to be doing whatever. We can’t be afraid of saying no because we think an opportunity will pass us by. Instead, we must exercise saying no on a very regular basis. It will begin to focus our minds more fully and will teach us what life we want to create for ourselves.


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