Saying Yes to everything is keeping you stuck.
I spent two hours yesterday in a meeting that I didn’t want to attend. Plus I drove there and back. And paid for parking.
Have you ever done something like that?
A parent from your kid’s school asks you to make something for the bake sale. And you hate cooking.
Or, the accounting team asks you to sit in on that 2pm meeting. Even though you are in marketing and the project has nothing to do with you.
They ask you nicely. Or, tell you it’s important to them. Then, without thinking about it, you say — Yes, I’d be happy to.
Recognize when you’re people pleasing
I’ll admit it. I agreed to attend the meeting because the people asked in a kind way. And they are good people. I wanted them to think positive things about me. If I said No, what would they think of me?
So I said Yes.
But the truth is, I can’t control what other people think. And I will never know what is going on in their heads. No matter what actions I take.
If you say yes to baking brownies for the bake sale. Or to join the 2pm accounting meeting. You are hoping for the same. That doing what they ask will make them think you are a good, or nice, or a team player.
We look for other people to validate us or our choices. And we do it by agreeing to things we don’t want to do.
Even if we could control other people’s thoughts. And our actions did make someone else think positive things about us. Does that mean we think positive things about ourselves?
When I got home from that meeting, I was mildly panicked. I didn’t feel like a good person. I actually felt like I let myself down. Because I had a large list of things that I wanted to get through in the day. Things that aligned with my own goals and priorities. And I was not able to do everything. Because I agreed to a meeting to please someone else.
Remember — saying Yes to one thing means you you’re saying No to something else
Everyone is busy. Everyone has limited time. (Except for Beyonce. She seems to defy 24 hours in a day.)
So, when you say Yes to something that you don’t want to do, it means you’re saying No to what you do want to do.
I have four priorities in my life right now. Work, family, health, and writing. Those four fill my life to overflowing. And each one of them is, to me, very important.
So when I agree to 2+ hours of my day to do something that doesn’t align with those goals. I am saying No to one of those priorities. Which one? Should I spend less time with my kids today? Should I not exercise? Push out that work deadline? Or, write one less story this week?
Those are the things I need to give up when I say Yes to something outside of the four priorities.
Sometimes it’s worth it. I’ll happily hand my kids off for the bedtime routine every so often to meet a close friend for a drink and catch up. But I weigh the decision with intention. I think about what I’m getting. And if it’s worth what I have to give up in return.
You’ll never make progress on what’s important to you if you’re focusing on what’s important to other people
We can only focus on a few things in life.
And it can take some time to think about what you want to prioritize. My four priorities might not resonate for you. I have a few friends who have Fun as one of their life priorities. They never miss a chance to have fun, whether its travel or parties or anything else. And that’s amazing. Because there are no “right” priorities. There are only the ones that feel true to you.
I would never be able to do my best work on a project. Or spend the kind of time that I want to spend with my kids. Or run a half marathon. If I get distracted by every shiny object. Every request, every meeting. Every pan of brownies.
I would never have found time to write.
So I need to remind myself, on days like yesterday, that those meetings that I accept. In the hope that someone else will think good things about me. Comes at a cost.
Be mindful of what you say Yes to. And do it for the right reasons. Ones that are true to you.
Because once you pick and choose your actions. That’s when you can really make progress toward your goals. And make choices that build on one another.
That bring you closer to where you want to be, in the areas of life that are most important to you.
As the ancient Greek mathematician Pythagoras said:
The oldest, shortest words — ‘yes’ and ‘no’ — are those which require the most thought.