I’m writing this to myself because it’s likely I might forget this lesson; it would be a crying shame to have to learn it twice.
Historically I’m terrible at saying no. I love leaving myself open for new opportunities. I like the freedom of choosing a new direction at every intersection. This means I’m more likely to say yes than no to pretty much any opportunity. Here’s the thing though: saying yes to one thing automatically means there’s a lot I must say no to make the yes happen.
Don’t Be So Negative
No isn’t a negative word, like I used to think. It’s reinforcement for a yes I’ve committed myself to. I say yes to jogging to the gym in the morning for a workout, I can’t say yes to talking to my girlfriend at the same time. I can’t say yes to writing code or a new blog post at that time. I can’t say yes to lazily rolling around in bed til I’m ready to get out of bed. Yes to the gym means I must say no to those other things. Not that they’re bad things that automatically deserve a no. The issue is I can’t go to the gym if I’m doing any of the other things. It’s simple, really.
You’ll Know When to Say Yes and When to Say No
Be grateful for the times its clear. Those are the easy ones. The things you really need to say no to don’t present themselves as an obvious no. They’re subtle. Deceptively subtle. In fact, you’ve probably assumed the correct answer to the question is yes long before you discover that you should have said no in the first place. If you’ve said yes to the gym, do you say yes to jogging to the gym with a friend? On one hand, having a buddy to go with is pretty helpful; your buddy could motivate you on lazy days, so pairing up is a good idea. On the other hand, you might spend lots of time waiting for, chatting with or hanging out with said friend. Enough that your time at the gym isn’t very productive. Do you say yes or no to your friend who wants to jog to the gym with you?
It’s A Lot More Clear When It Really Matters
Saying yes to your partner means saying no to every other future match, no matter how much more compatible they appear to be. If you’re having serious trouble in your current relationship, do you stay to work it out or do you go with a potentially better partner? Saying yes to a project means saying no to any other project that comes up while you’re currently engaged. Do you continue working on a project that feels like it’s going nowhere when you just got invited to work on an awesome new project with better pay and awesome team members?
It’s Not a Yes or No Question
The phrasing or logic of a question is really boils down to some points. You can’t pursue every opportunity. You need to be able to close some off in order to chase others appropriately.
It doesn’t mean something you said no to today will forever be a no. I never worked out for majority of my life. I was proud to be a nerd that focused on building my mind. I’d pick a good book over gym time any day. Today, I appreciate being able to jog a kilometer without stopping to catch my breath. Saying yes to working on a healthier body has meant I have to say no to some good books. I had to close off the possibility of reading every good book that came my way for that to happen.
It’s not always clear you’re saying no to many things when you say yes to one thing. It’s been lost on me in times past but I can’t afford to remain ignorant of the relationship between them. My future depends on it.