One of the most important paradigm shifts that I have ever made is related to the idea that we can “have it all.” What I’ve discovered is…we can’t.
Whenever we say “yes” to one thing, we simply have to say “no” to something else.
If we don’t, we are over-extending our resources – physically, emotionally, mentally, and even financially. As a result, we are much more likely to be unhappy and burned out.
This idea of saying “no” to something because we have already said “yes” to something else is nothing new. There are many things in life that inherently require us to say “no” to people, activities, or belief systems that are not aligned with what we want. For example:
- When we say “yes” to getting married, we (hopefully) say “no” to dating other people.
- When we say “yes” to losing weight, we say “no” to decadent desserts.
- When we say “yes” to going back to school, we will find many times when we have to say “no” to going out with friends or having our weekends “free.”
- When we say “yes” to purchasing a large ticket item, we usually also need to say “no” to spending money on unnecessary “splurges.”
- When we say “yes” to living a well-balanced life, we have to say “no” to anyone or anything that contributes to a sense of imbalance or dissatisfaction.
It’s all about our priorities. There are only a limited number of hours in each day. Each of us has different biorhythms that reflect our “peak” times for getting work done. We also have a very real, unconditional need for restful sleep so that we can recharge for the coming day.
This balance of work and rest has to be completed every 24 hours each and every day.
In other words, we can’t (and shouldn’t) over-extend ourselves by trying to “do it all.”
By living our priorities, it is much easier to say “yes” to the things that really matter to us – those things that reflect what we want, who we are, and what we believe in.
Saying “Yes” to Everything Actually Means Saying “Maybe” to Most Things
The realization that we can’t “do it all” often invokes fear in many of us. But fear is not the problem that prevents us from “doing it all.” The real problem lies in our unrealistic expectations of what we are humanly capable of doing.
High standards are great. But we can’t – and shouldn’t – try to be superhumans by saying “yes” to everything that comes our way in our personal and professional lives.
By saying “yes” to everything, we are unable to commit fully to any of the things that we said “yes” to. When we are over-extended, it is highly unlikely that we will sufficiently follow through with any of these commitments.
Life is full of trade-offs. Living a more well-balanced life is a choice. It requires us to recognize, respect, and adapt to the fact that we can’t “do it all” and (probably more importantly) don’t try to “do it all.” Although we can do a lot of things well – we can’t (and shouldn’t) strive for “perfection” in every aspect of our lives.
By saying “yes” to everything, we are actually saying “maybe” to most things. Instead of being able to commit to excellence in the things that we choose to say “yes” to, we actually commit to mediocrity because our energy and resources are stretched to their limits. Instead of creating excellence, we succumb to mediocrity by our inability to say “no” to the things that conflict with our priorities.
The power and courage necessary to determine what we choose to say “yes” to comes from identifying and committing to the priorities that are important to us. It then becomes much easier to say “no” to anything that conflicts with our self-identified priorities.
Saying “no” doesn’t mean that we are “missing out” or short-changing ourselves. Paradoxically, the more comfortable we are in saying “no” to things, ideas, and people that do not reflect our priorities, the richer, fuller, and more satisfying our lives ultimately become.
Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.
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