Do You Say No?

I get occasional emails from people who I trust and follow – they may me think or point me to good information. If you’ve subscribed to an email list, maybe this will sound familiar. Last week I got one piece of advice that made me pause to think why I disagreed with it so strongly.

“I rarely regret doing something (but almost always regret not doing it).”

Is this something that resonates with you? For me, I found myself railing hard against this advice, even though I recognise that it is something that would have appealed to an earlier, younger version of me.

What I’ve noticed more recently is that I get more done and gain more satisfaction from doing exactly the opposite of this practice.

I have got much better at saying no

“Thanks for letting me know, and please keep letting me know about possible potential opportunities, but for this one, it’a a no, thank you.”

Politely, but still no. When I say yes, I have to weigh up the potential opportunity against how much this takes me away from my core purpose: the intersection of what I like doing, and what I am good at. At this point in my life and career, I have realised that too many times I have taken on projects where I may have been good at executing the task, but it hasn’t stimulated my interest enough to keep me engaged over the long term. As a result, though it may have led to more opportunities, they took me further away from my sweet spot of where my talents and interests intersect. I’ve done some intense reflection over the past couple of years on my values, interests, and vision for my life over the next decade or two. I wonder, how do you choose what you do?

Of course, there is always opportunity to learn, but that almost comes as a separate category for me now – taking on a project, or collaborating on one, where it stretches and grows and develops me in a way that takes more time and careful scaffolding. It’s not something to be taken lightly; without careful planning, it can scatter your time and energy everywhere.

I don’t think it is an accident that I find myself drawn to interests and activities that I was doing as an emerging adult. Without the pressures of career paths and other other obligations, I was much more free to choose what I did. The best thing I can do now is to recapture this and re-embody this experience, though differently now, tailoring it for my constraints, circumstances and all the experience I have accumulated in the ensuing decades since I was 18.

So, I wonder, do you say no?

Please feel free to drop me a note below – I’m genuinely interested in how you respond to advice like saying yes to all opportunities, because I think it contributes to experiences like burnout and drifting from your sense of purpose.

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