Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” This ancient phrase might seem unusual in today’s culture where being busy is seen as a sign of importance and finding “work-life” balance seems elusive.
As professionals who strive towards excellence in our fields while still maintaining a healthy network of personal relationships and vital life-giving purpose outside of the office there is a key to allowing our deepest values to set our schedule: be aware of what we are really saying “no” to when we say “yes.” When asked to invest or time and energy into any endeavor simply ask, “By saying, ‘yes’ to this what am I saying ‘no’ to?”
When a manager asks an employee person to work over the weekend to make sure the TPS reports are in order a “yes” to that request means saying “no” to spending quality time with family or friends. That’s a common conflict for many professions that involve working hours in the evenings or on weekends. By pausing to ask, “By saying, ‘yes’ to this what am I saying ‘no’ to?” we can see if the choices we’re making are really helping us to live by our deepest values. For some professionals saying “yes” to working evening or weekend hours creates the opportunity to say “no” to working on a weekday so that they’re free to “yes” to something else of value (maybe chaperoning a child’s field trip at school).
A person might name good health, happiness, contributing to the local community, and positive personal relationships (friends and family) as core values for life. That person keeps those four values in mind when making time and energy commitments. For example, a call comes in with a last minute request to bake cookies for tomorrow’s bake sale to support a much beloved community organization. The organization is one this person wants to support, and it would be a way to contribute to the local community. To meet the deadline a “yes” to this request is also a “no” to a good night’s sleep. When a good night’s sleep is critical for maintaining good health saying “no” to the late night baking and making another contribution to that community organization is a choice that supports this person’s deepest values for both good health and positive contributions to the greater community.
Hidden “yes” and “no” choices face us daily. Saying “no” to that delicious piece of Halloween candy sitting out and taunting us while awaiting the arrival of trick-or-treaters actually means saying “yes” to maintaining good health. Saying “yes” to mindlessly scrolling a Facebook newsfeed while standing in line at the coffee shop might mean saying “no” to the opportunity to connect to the people around us at that very moment. Saying “yes” to watching the 17th inning means saying “no” to a good night’s sleep.
I am given many wonderful opportunities to serve our community. Saying “yes” to some of these opportunities aligns with my core value to serve others. However, when I say “yes” to so many wonderful opportunities that my schedule is too full to have time to exercise I am also saying “no” to good health and am not allowing that core value to guide my schedule.
Simply taking a moment to consider, “By saying, ‘yes’ to this what am I saying ‘no’ to?” when making time commitments allows me to ensure that all of my core values are being lived out through my choices.
I am proud to serve as the Senior Pastor of Central United Methodist Church where this idea helps us to set our goals as an organization. We value serving our local community in Ballston, and utilizing our church facilities for as many community groups as we can. One of the vital ministries of our church is to serve a hot breakfast on Friday mornings for our homeless friends. This ministry of hospitality and service is important to us as a church. On Thursday nights we prep the food to be cooked in the morning, and we set up the fellowship hall to welcome our guests on Friday. This means that we must say “no” to various requests we get to use our fellowship hall on Thursday nights. While we would love to accommodate these groups, we know that by saying “no” to their request to use the space on Thursday nights it allows us to prepare the space and say “yes” to welcoming our Friday morning guests.
Next time you are asked to respond to the many requests upon your time my hope is that you will let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”