Learning to just say ‘no’

Published 8:16 pm Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Have you ever known anyone that was better at giving advice than they were at taking it?  Or even worse, they don’t even take their own advice; sort of a “Do as I say, not as I do” type of person.   If not, then let me introduce you to such person.  His name is Dan Ponder.

As our companies have grown, I have seen over and over different young employees become successful in their community.  Soon organizations all over town want this person involved in their own causes because he or she knows how to get things done.  Who hasn’t heard the old saying “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it.”

Inevitably I will have a conversation with this employee and tell them what they probably already know.  “You have to learn how to say no”, I will counsel and they will nod their head knowing it to be the truth.

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I have been giving myself that same advice for quite a while now.  The problem for me personally is that so many people and organizations have been supportive of me over the years.    I know they are worthy causes.  I know they can make a difference in peoples’ lives.  I know I can help.

However, there reaches a time when you realize your own life is changing.   You have raised your children and want to enjoy your grandchildren.   You have more flexibility with time and finances allowing you to do some of the things you have always dreamed about.  Your bucket list is full even as the remaining time grows shorter.

Yesterday I was asked to serve on a board whose work is very close and dear to my heart.   I spent a very restless night wrestling with whether I had the time to adequately serve.  I very much want to say yes to their call.  However, I hear my own voice telling me what I already know; “You have to learn how to say no”.

I will make that difficult call later today and let them know my decision.  Will I feel guilty?  Yes.  Is it the right thing to do?  Absolutely.

There really are only so many hours in the day.   Anything we choose to take on will limit our ability to do other things, especially if one is already busy.   Whether I can somehow fit a new commitment into my schedule isn’t really the point.  The thing that will suffer will be the precious and fleeting time to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate.

There has to be some time in one’s life to do nothing.   After a lifetime of going full speed, I am yearning for a bit of time to do nothing.   I am going to listen to a not so wise man who never learned to take his own advice.

I am going to say no.