I was at a client event this past week with several other consultants. Over a dinner, we discussed some of our choices—when did we say yes and when did we say no.
I said something like this: “I have been saying yes more often to new and different experiences, as long as they meet certain criteria. I need to be able to stay safe, and if it’s work, to make enough money. I have found that by trying new things, I expand my options and learn new things. Saying yes has helped me.”
I wasn’t the only one. One person at our table has taken several fascinating scuba diving trips and changed jobs about a year ago to something she is great at and loves. Another person has said “No” to longer runs, such as marathons, and “Yes” to many shorter runs, which provide her great satisfaction and the right kind of exercise. Another person said yes to a client opportunity and built a whole new side of her business.
Yes doesn’t always mean greatness in your life. Sometimes, No is better. And, saying Yes, especially when something is new and different, can create new opportunities you didn’t expect.
Think about the past weeks and months. What did you say Yes to? What did you say No to? How did you choose?
I have a talk about how individuals can manage their project portfolio. It’s called “Say Yes or Say No: What to Do When Faced With the Impossible.” I have a little activity in it: I ask people to stand up and say Yes to others. I then ask them to say No. Then, I ask them to choose which. When we debrief, people say things such as:
- Saying Yes felt great. (I want to please other people.)
- Saying No felt great. (I want to take time for my work and not feel pressure.)
- Choosing was difficult. (I don’t want to feel under pressure and I don’t want to let people down.)
- Choosing was easy. (I said what I wanted to say.)
That context is about work. When I ask people to do the same activity in a change workshop, I ask them to apply this question/activity for their lives and work. Then, the debrief is a little different:
- Saying Yes was scary.
- Saying No was safe.
- I’m not sure how to choose.
Not everyone says this. But, enough people say it that my conclusion is: We are better at knowing how or what to choose for work than we are for our personal lives.
That doesn’t surprise me. I don’t have a strategic plan for my life. I have values by which I live. For work, I have a strategy. It’s clearer to me what to select for my transforming projects, growing projects, and keep the lights on work. For my personal life, those choices are more difficult.
It’s worth it for me to understand when I say Yes. Maybe it will be worth it to you, to consider and examine your choices.
Dear adaptable problem solvers, that is the question of the week: When do you say Yes?