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Saying “No” is hard. Especially when saying “Yes” ushers in unbelievable new opportunities. Saying “Yes” became my default answer when I wanted to explore what work I would like to do, and it was also a way for me to find new friends in a new city. Staying home wasn’t going to bring anything new into my life.
Well, I got what I asked for, the chance to make a bunch of new friends and plenty of work options. I said yes to every evening event in town, yes to almost every work offer I got, yes to every writing opportunity, yes to making things to sell for CNY, Christmas and Easter, yes to organising networking events, yes to going on trips where I hardly knew anyone, and yes to helping anyone that asked.
Of course the result was fatal. Managing my time was a nightmare and after 5 months without a break, I was beat. I know I’m not the only one with this much going on, since “busy” is the new “fine”.
Saying “Yes” without a filter no longer worked in my favour. I needed rules of engagement. I couldn’t have a default answer. A choice had to be made. And I had to become friends with the word “NO!”.
I’ve heard someone say that the hardest thing in life is learning to make choices. And I totally agree. But there isn’t enough space here to debate the subject of making choices. We all have to figure out what is best for us with the information we have at hand. For anyone afraid of making the wrong choice, I’ve come to the understanding that there are no wrong choices. There’s only the choice itself.
That’s much easier said than done, but I try to keep in mind that hesitating about making a choice is my fear of what will happen in the future. Usually, I predict something bad. In which case, why worry about something that probably won’t happen. Besides, it’s not happening right now.
Eventually I came up with some guidelines for myself. They are based on a manifesto that I wrote for myself a while ago, something like “guiding principles for my life”. This list is work-related because I decided I wanted to be known for something. Not staying focused on the things I liked was diluting my work experience.
The Guidelines. Do with it what you will
Say “No” if it’s going to tie you down.
I don’t know about you, but for me, freedom is the most important thing, so if it prevents me from being in control of my own time, then it’s a “no”.
Say “No” if it’s not new.
If it doesn’t help me grow personally or professionally then it doesn’t serve my highest interests.
Say “No” when you know you’re only following the money.
If you have everything you want and need would you still want to do this thing?
Say “No” if you’re saying yes just because you’re afraid nothing else will come along.
There will always be something else. Don’t panic and don’t rush into something out of fear.
Say “No” if you have no idea why you would say yes.
Unless I have a clear reason for doing something I lose interest very quickly, and it shows up on my CV in the amount of different jobs I’ve done. They didn’t stick because I didn’t know why I wanted to be there.
Say “No” when you don’t immediately want to say yes.
And if you’re not sure, defer making a decision until you are. No one minds as long as you’re honest.
How do you decide to say “No”?
Image cover credit: nathangibbs
Guest post written by Abby Lo
Creative, determined, fun – that’s Abby. And unconventional (strange = cool in her book). London was her universe before she moved to KL in 2011 to – unbeknownst to her – emerge as an entrepreneur. Now that she’s released herself from the windowless 9-5 rectangle, you’ll find her freelance copywriting for health and well-being related websites, products and services. She also moonlights as a researcher and editor for the social policy specialist at UNICEF Malaysia and twilights (?!) to plot her first creative venture. You can connect with Abby on Linkedin.