Saying “Yes” is Saying “No”

At a meeting last week one colleague said the following: “Whenever you say Yes to something, you’re saying No to something else”

For some reason this simple statement just struck me hard… like a ton of bricks.

I’ve always been the person to volunteer for everything. If it can be done, I’d volunteer to do it. I’m the “YES!” girl.

In high school I was a member of EVERY club on campus, ran cross country, was active in my youth group at church (also did every activity there), and I volunteered for my local community theatre every night. All while maintaining a perfect GPA. I am the quintessential “Yes” girl.

The hardest lesson that I learned was to say “No” to something I wanted to do.

It was my sophomore year in college and I was, of course, involved in many activities. I was a double Biology and Chemistry major. I (at the time) was also a Political Science minor. I lead an acting group that toured every weekend. I was a member of our Chemistry and Biology clubs on campus. I participated in two different small groups in our dorms. I worked 10 hours a week at our campus tutoring center. I was also a member of the band.

The problem? There weren’t enough hours in the day to be involved in so much, maintain friendships AND get straight As.

I will never forget the tearful conversation I had with my mom the beginning of my sophomore year where I confessed to her that I was too stressed out! I couldn’t do everything anymore. And she told me simply: “You have to drop something.”

By saying “Yes” to all of those activities I had said “No” to free time and enough time to study.

So in order to say “Yes” to study time I had to say “No” to something. That something was band. It was with a heavy heart that I dropped out of band. But immediately after doing so I had enough time for everything. Without practice every day I suddenly had time to do properly study for my classes!

Now I’m a faculty member and I’m starting to realize that I don’t have time for everything I want to do for this school. I want to join every committee. I want to start up a ton of new programs. I want to give great lectures. I want to give interesting assignments. I want to meet personally with every student in each of my classes. I want to grade every assignment within a week. But I can’t say “Yes” to each of those things without saying “No” to something else. For now, my highest priority is quality lectures. Everything else falls in line behind that… and sometimes far behind…

Now that I’m older, I realize that life is a balance between work and home life. If you say “Yes” too many times to things at work, you start to say “No” to home life.

I’m already starting to feel over-exerted by the grading of one of the assignments I gave my students this semester. So much so that it is starting to interfere with my personal life with BF. Instead of saying “Yes” to a fun day of hanging out with him on Saturday, I had to say “Yes” to a full day or grading.

I think that every time I agree to do something from here on out I have to ask myself: What am I saying “No” to in order to do this – and is it worth it?

If it isn’t worth it I need to cast it aside and devote myself and my time to my top priorities.

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13 Responses to Saying “Yes” is Saying “No”

  1. Great Post!

    I think I might need to practice my ‘No’s’ πŸ˜€

  2. Daisy says:

    This is something that I struggle with.
    I try to say yes to everything that comes my way. I actually TRY this though, for a couple reasons.
    First of all, I’ve not graduated yet. Everything that comes my way academically or school-wise is career growth. I need to get myself out there and do all that I can to be proactive before I graduate, so that I’ll actually graduate with a job.
    Secondly, because I’ve been so busy my whole life, free time can get boring for me.

    I keep telling myself that I’ll relax when I graduate and have a job. But career development is an ongoing process, so who knows.
    I’m probably flawed in this thought process.

    • SS4BC says:

      Well, free time for me isn’t just sitting around doing nothing by myself. It is social time. Time to go on dates, time to hang out with friends, time to watch a movie, go out to dinner with the family. Those are activities I include in my “free time”. =)

  3. Whenever you say Yes to something, you’re saying No to something else” I love that phrase! I guess life is really like that. You can’t have all the good things in this world. You have to choose one that you think is the best. And drop the other that you think is not the same as the best one. πŸ™‚

  4. I feel your pain with this, and it’s something I’ve struggled with in the past because I didn’t want to disappoint the person who was asking me to be part of whatever.

    Now whenever I get asked to do something, I ask myself “do I want to do this?” If the answer is no, or even not really, I simply say no. When I get asked why I just tell people “because I don’t want to.”

    For me, free time is invaluable. It allows me to work on projects I want to work on, refreshing me. Nobody has a right to it.

  5. I had the same experience my first semester of college– I didn’t even last a year!

  6. TWG says:

    Yep, I just wrote about this.

  7. Hehe this reminds me of Yes Man! The movie….just watched it last night. Both yeses and nos can get you into trouble.

  8. Great post. I have recently been practicing on my “no’s”, and the great thing is, I realize that I am actually not as stressed out. And I can take care of myself more.

    • SS4BC says:

      Indeed! It is quite stress relieving…. or at least it is in theory…. I’m still too much of a “Yes Girl” for my liking. πŸ˜‰

  9. Mercedes says:

    Sometimes I wish I would say “yes” more often. I am hoping that when I go back to school in the fall that I can at least participate in some sort of professional society on campus. it is a great way to network and make new friends. Gosh I could use some new friends…

  10. Pingback: Decision Day « Small Steps for Big Change

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