Learning to say ’no’

When I first moved to California, I filled my days with saying ‘yes’ to everything.

I said ‘yes’ to taking on volunteering for a local charity. I wanted to fit in, make new friends.

I said ‘yes’ to any work project that came my way. I wanted to show off my skills and become indispensable.

I said ‘yes’ to more volunteering projects and ‘yes’ to more work projects- all in the quest of getting respect from those around me. Only to completely lose respect for my own needs and wants.

I was on the verge of a break-down: overcommitted and unhappy. Eventually, I took a moment to reflect. I realized that I wasn’t doing what serves me best in my work life nor in my personal life. I wasn’t full of joy. I started to resent everything and everyone around me. I gave something I wasn’t willing to give anymore.

In the process of finding joy again I learned that the answer didn’t lie in learning to say ‘no’, but rather learning to say ‘yes’ to the right things, the things that really mattered to me.

Now when I get asked to help with a project, my answer is one of these:

“Let me check my schedule first…”
“Let me think about it…”
“Let me get back to you…”

Then I take the time to think about the proposal. I reflect on my current commitments:

Do I have time or will I overcommit? Can I delegate parts of this project or parts of an ongoing project?

As a second step I determine whether this project is the right thing for me:

Does it matter to me right now?

Only then do I give an answer.

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