If there is one commonality amongst achievers, it’s that we like to say yes.
Would you like to take this project on? Of course!
Are you free to volunteer at this event? Let’s do it!
Can you lead the team this year? Why not?
Even if we have 3 other projects running, multiple interpersonal commitments, and already feeling stretched and overwhelmed, we say yes.
Well it could be our fear of missing out. Our desire to test our limits. Perhaps even feeling guilt over letting a colleague down. Whatever the reason, I’m here to tell you it’s time to start saying no.
This past year I committed to 2 volunteer leadership roles, my more than full-time career as a salesperson, my fellowship with Venture For Canada, being a speaker, volunteer and delegate with Jack.org, building my career as a professional speaker, writer and coach and of course the most important relationships in my life with my girlfriend, few close friends and family.
A mouth full I know…
And not only am I out of breath saying it out loud, it’s clear to me I bit off more than I could chew as a leader this past year.
I’ve stretched myself too far mentally. I’ve put too many demands on myself physically. I’ve weakened relationships that I cared about. All because I said yes. Perhaps you have too.
So I’m here to say, once and for all, that I hope my mistakes this year challenge you to believe that it’s time to stop overcommitting. To shortchanging our relationships. And from preventing ourselves from doing our best work. As my good friend Iain Gabriel always reminds me, “he who chases two hares catches none.”
Am I saying, don’t take on hard work as an achiever? No.
Am I saying I regret my decisions, actually, some of them.
What I’m saying and hope to make it crystal clear that as a leader, less is more. This year of pushing myself too far has taught me that having more than three top priorities means that we have no priorities. That the more you say yes, the more inevitable sacrifices you will need to make. Some of the sacrifices just weren’t worth it. Looking back I don’t want to dwell on Jim Rohn’s words ever again,
“Don’t trade your life for mediocre goals.”
If you struggle with this as much as I do, I think these 3 reasons to say no might help you moving forward, too.
1. Other peoples’ priorities take precedence over ours. If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.
2. We will not have time for rest and recovery. Therefore we ultimately end up frustrated and stressed. Similar to working out in the gym, everyone needs to de load every-once in a while. We need to exercise with lower weights, less intensity and have a greater focus on rest. That way, when do get back in the gym, we’re stronger than ever before. The same is true with our mental health as a achiever and leader.
3. We won’t be able to say yes to the really important things.
The last one was the clincher for me.
Out of guilt or fear of confrontation, we take on more projects and invest in someone else’s priorities.… In the process, we lose our most valuable personal resources—time, energy, and money—on things that aren’t important to us. Each time we agree to something without enthusiasm or interest, we waste a little more of these precious resources.
Finally, number 3 reminds of an audio by Success Magazine of Darren Hardy interviewing Michael Bungay Stanier on Good vs Great work. For those of you that have never heard Michael before here’s a quick primer from his book, Do More Great Work.
If you can’t remember how you just spend the day (or the week) – you’re doing Good Work.
If you’re about as anxious as you are excited – you’re doing Great Work.
If you’re bored of telling people what you do – you’re doing Good Work.
If you’re going to do it regardless – you’re doing Great Work.
If you’re sticking to your job description – you’re doing Good Work.
If you’re stepping out to the edge of yourself – you’re doing Great Work.
Over the last year as a leader, every-time I said yes to other people’s priorities, excluding those that I was genuinely excited about, I ended up doing good work. By continuously taking on that type of good work not only did I start to feel overwhelmed, stressed and burnout, but I didn’t have the strength to say yes to my personal passion projects and priorities.
I didn’t get to be the President at CSI Pitchmasters I envisioned I would be. I didn’t get to make as big of an impact for youth in Canada suffering with challenges with their mental health as I promised myself I would be. And I didn’t get to I didn’t have the energy to be fully present in my relationships or go all in on my personal brand. As a result I’ve accomplished less in the last year than I know I’m capable of.
I’ve learned my lesson. And it’s time to turn it around.
Every time we say no to something that is not important, we are saying yes to something that is: our work, our relationships, our resources, our health.
Every time we say NO to something that is not important, we are saying YES to something that is.
Decide to stop trading your life for mediocre goals. Decide to stop putting other peoples’ priorities before your own. Decide to start saying no to good work and yes to great work.
Find the work that lights you up. The work that makes a difference. The work that matters. Say yes to that work. If you can muster that courage, your health, relationships and of course your leadership will flourish.
Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change the direction.”