“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” ~Josh Billings
This quote couldn’t have crossed my screen at a more appropriate time. Yesterday I had a truly life-changing moment that has taken me years to evolve to – I was able to confidently tell someone “no”! I know that sounds ridiculous to some of you, but when you have spent years saying yes to volunteer roles because you felt guilty or because you might let someone down, the word “no” becomes a word you don’t say very often. (And you’d think I’d be an expert at it seeing I say it to my kids at least 10 times a day for something!) Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret anything I’ve said “yes” to doing in the past. I have enjoyed volunteering to do them all, at some point. But I guess I am now at the point where my priorities are changing and I’ve decided to become more selective of where my time will be spent going forward.
Believe me – yesterday wasn’t easy – and I nearly retracted my answer and told them “yes” before it was all said and done, but I didn’t. I stood firm, gave my justification and let the opportunity be passed on to someone else. And I will admit it felt pretty good – even liberating! Taking control and evaluating my own time and reasons was exactly what I did and in the end, it was exactly what I know I needed to do. But I will admit that the decision to say “no” did not come without some of its own guilt and internal struggle throughout the day.
But over the last few years, as I’ve started to evaluate where my time is being spent and tried to determine where that time will make the most difference or biggest impact, I’ve chosen to let some things go. Things that I thought were important, but turned out to simply be time drainers that sucked the life out of me while accomplishing very little for the mission or purpose that I believed in. I’ve spent far too many hours knee-deep in drama when those hours could have been spent doing something that really mattered, something that could actually change a life. So, going forward, I hope my ability to use the word “no” comes with a little less angst and a little more ease. The confidence with which I offer my “no” is sure to evolve over time, too. But ultimately I hope that my evaluation of opportunities provides me the knowledge I need to make those tough decisions and ultimately use my time in the best possible way I can. Because as Benjamin Franklin said, “Lost Time is Never Found Again”. I can honestly say, while I don’t regret agreeing to things I’ve done, I have lost a lot of unnecessary time that will never be given back. Time that could have been better spent in other places to really make a difference.
So…if you find yourself like me, and find the word “no” incredibly difficult to say – it helps to remember – there will always be someone else to take the job, fill the role and do the work – this is a lesson that has taken me many years to figure out, unfortunately. But, in the end, there is only so much time we each have and we have to choose to use it for what we feel is best for us, not them – right?